Independent Study (399)

1. General Requirements

Students interested in a mathematical topic or area not covered in our standard curriculum may wish to pursue Independent Study. There are several general conditions that must be met:

  • the topic should be mathematics at the 300-level or higher
  • the topic must not be one covered in a course that is normally offered in the department
  • written materials (texts and/or mathematics papers) must be available covering the topic
  • the work must be supervised by a member of the Mathematics Department
  • the student must have mastered any prerequisite material required for the independent study topic
  • the student and his/her supervisor must submit a 399 petition to the Director of Undergraduate Studies for approval

2. Choosing a topic and a supervisor

Independent study most often arises from a student's desire to continue deeper study of a topic encountered in course work. For example, someone fascinated by the material in our one-quarter complex analysis course (325-0) might want to learn more about that subject. In such a case, the first step is to have a discussion with the professor who taught the course. Even if s/he is unable to supervise an independent study project, s/he might be able to suggest another instructor who can.

The desire to understand the mathematics underlying another subject, such as relativity theory or finance sometimes leads to independent study. Browsing the faculty list is a way of identifying a faculty member with expertise in the relevant mathematics.

Topics not covered in our current curriculum, such as algebraic geometry, can make interesting material for independent work.

Students who need help in pinpointing exactly what to study, as well as those seeking help in finding a supervisor, should consult the Director of Undergraduate Studies.

3. Procedural Matters

Once a topic has been chosen, an appropriate member of the department should be asked to supervise the independent study. The same person may be consulted about finding a specific topic within a general area. (Suggestions for identifying potential supervisors are in the preceding paragraph.) Agreement should be reached on what texts will be used, what specific chapters or sections will be read, what specific work must be done, and how often meetings with the supervisor will take place. That agreement should be formalized on a copy of the 399 petition. The petition should then be submitted to the Director of Undergraduate Studies (in most cases, it will be sufficient to leave it in the Math office for the DUS) for approval.

The staff in the Math office will assign a section number and a permission number for registration in Math 399-0 upon presentation of the approved petition.

These steps take time! The process of finding a supervisor should commence at least 3 weeks before registration opens for the quarter in which the independent study is to take place.