MIT PRIMES: Program Details

 

MIT PRIMES is a year-long program, in which high school students work on individual and group research projects and participate in reading groups under the guidance of academic mentors, usually graduate students or postdoctoral scholars. MIT PRIMES includes three sections:

  • mathematics
  • computer science
  • computational and physical biology

Timetable

The program operates throughout the calendar year in four distinct phases:

  • Phase I, January 1 - 31:
    Reading period. In early January you will be notified of the admission decision and assigned a research project and a mentor. The mentor will recommend background reading necessary for your project. You will conduct the reading independently in consultation with your mentor.
  • Phase II, February 1 - May 31:
    Active research period. You will work on your project under the guidance of your mentor. You will be expected to spend at least 10 hours per week working on your project. This includes home study and a 1.5-hour weekly meeting with your mentor on the MIT campus. The day/time of your meeting will be chosen to suit both you and your mentor. You will occasionally discuss your project with the MIT faculty member who suggested your project and with the head mentor. At the end of May, you will present the obtained results at a PRIMES conference, which your friends and family members will be welcome to attend.
  • Phase III, June 1 - August 31:
    Independent study period. You will continue working on your project independently, staying in e-mail contact with your mentor. PRIMES does not conflict with any summer programs, since it has a flexible schedule in the summer.
  • Phase IV, September 1 - December 31:
    Write-up period. You will meet with your mentor as needed and stay in regular e-mail contact. With the help of your mentor, you will finalize your project and write a final paper summarizing your results. This paper may be submitted to national science competitions for high school students and/or sent to professional research journals for publication.

Reading groups

The Math section includes a research track and a reading group track.

Participation in the research track will require very advanced mathematical background. Participation in a reading group would serve as an excellent preparation for future research at PRIMES and beyond.

Reading mathematical literature is a vital part of professional life of any mathematician. It is of key importance at all ages, but especially so for students. For many students, guided reading proves more intellectually stimulating and beneficial than an immediate plunge into research. Devoting your first year at PRIMES to guided reading would build a solid foundation for attacking a challenging research problem the following year.

A PRIMES reading group is a pair of high school students who actively study an advanced mathematical book under the guidance of a mentor, with whom they meet weekly at MIT (for about 2 hours) in the spring and fall semesters. In between meetings, they read assigned chapters, solve homework problems, and discuss the material with each other and with the mentor by e-mail or skype. In December, they make presentations on the material they have studied.

In 2013, we have three reading groups studying the following advanced books, usually assigned to advanced undergraduates and graduate students:

Joseph Gallian, Contemporary Abstract Algebra

Noga Alon and Joel Spencer, The Probabilistic Method

V.B. Alekseev, Abel’s Theorem in Problems & Solutions

The reading group track is highly recommended for students who are just entering PRIMES (especially younger students – freshmen and sophomores). It is also highly recommended for seniors, who would be in PRIMES for only half a year before going to college.

When we consider applications, we may decide that a student needs more background before s/he can work on a research project. In this case, we might admit this applicant to the reading group track, if s/he has applied for it. This is why we encourage you to apply to the reading group track, whether or not you also apply to the research track.

Admissions

PRIMES is a free program. It selects students based on their qualifications and solutions of an entrance problem set. For details, see How to Apply.

 

Contact

With questions, contact PRIMES Program Director Dr. Slava Gerovitch at primes@math.mit.edu