Stanford University

Stanford Math Directed Reading Program

The Directed Reading Program is a program of Stanford's Graduate Mathematics Outreach Organization in which undergraduate students (of any major) interested in independently reading some mathematics outside of their official coursework are paired for a quarter with math graduate students for weekly guidance and discussions. At the end of the quarter, participants gather for a colloquium in which each participant gives a short talk about their reading. The program began in winter quarter 2017.

Applications for Spring 2018 are now closed. Please check back in September for application information for Autumn 2018. You can also join the mathdrp-announce mailing list to receive announcements about the program.

Program format

Each quarter,

  1. Interested undergraduate students submit a brief application which asks something about their background and mathematical interests.
  2. The organizing committee matches undergraduates with an interested graduate student mentor who has similar interests. Pairings will generally be one-on-one.
  3. Each pair agrees on material that the undergraduate will read over the course of the quarter.
  4. Each week, the undergraduate student will be expected to spend at least four hours reading the material. During the week, students and mentors meet for about one hour to discuss the material.
  5. At the end of the quarter, all participants gather for a colloquium. Participating undergraduates each give a short (15 minute) talk about what they learned during the quarter. We have compiled a list of guidelines for giving a presentation.
  6. The next quarter, we start from step 1 again (new pool of mentors, new pairings, etc.). Of course, mentoring relationships may last beyond the single quarter if both participants wish.

Goals and philosophy

The guiding principle is informality: this is a way for everyone to learn new things, meet new people, and explore new areas in a friendly and casual environment. This is not to say that people should not learn serious math, but a DRP project is not supposed to be like another math course or even like a reading course with a faculty member—more like independent reading with a bit of guidance. In particular, the DRP is independent of the Stanford Math Department curriculum and does not confer academic credit.

One of the explicit goals of the program is to provide a streamlined way for undergraduate students to participate in the larger mathematical community and to gain mathematical cultural capital. We welcome applications from all Stanford undergraduates interested in mathematics, and women and members of other underrepresented groups are especially encouraged to apply.

Ways and means

This program is organized and run by a committee of mathematics graduate students. The current organizers are Alex Dunlap, Jesse Silliman, Weston Ungemach, and Yuval Wigderson. Please feel free to email the organizers with any questions or concerns. Faculty oversight is provided by Professor Brian Conrad.

The DRP concept is based on that of similar programs at other institutions, going back to the first DRP started in 2003 at UChicago. There is now a national DRP network which maintains a list of other DRPs.

The Math DRP is administered under the auspices of Stanford's Graduate Mathematics Outreach Organization. We are very grateful to Stanford's Office of the Vice Provost for Graduate Education (VPGE) for supporting the DRP through its Student Projects for Intellectual Community Enhancement (SPICE) and Diversity and Inclusion Innovation Funds (DIF) grants. We would also like to thank the staff of the Stanford Mathematics Department for invaluable administrative and logistical support.

Past participants

See the list of participants and topics in previous quarters.

The following is a list of abstract booklets from the final presentation sessions in previous quarters. Prospective participants may like to take a look to get an idea about what topics past participants have studied. (Note that in most cases, time constraints mean that each final presentation is only able to scratch the surface of the material that the participant studied!)


Undergraduates in math and allied fields may also be interested in the following programs and resources: