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Well, tomorrow is the mid-project presentations for my summer research. Hard to believe it’s already half over when time has flown by so quickly. I guess a brief recap is in order.

The Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) program is pretty much the only thing to do during the summer for an undergraduate math major. It’s funded through the NSF, and colleges across the US offer a wide variety of programs. Some (like mine) have been established for almost a decade; some were new in 2012. The database on the NSF isn’t bad, but you’re going to want to poke around on MathJobs and MathPrograms to find any that slipped through the cracks.

I started my REU at UNC Greensboro – Algorithmic Combinatorics on Partial Wordson June 4, the first day of finals week. My first week was a combination of trying to figure out what the heck a partial word is (which I did) and study for my finals (which I almost did). I took three finals here in all, before work at 7am. I think it was this first week that started my slow descent into coffee addiction. It’s not my fault there’s a coffee maker in our lab!

Anyway, my daily quart of coffee aside, things have been interesting. So far, I’ve learned LaTeX (software for writing up official math papers), basic Python (a programming language), and basic CSS and XHTML. Not bad for four weeks. It’s definitely taken me a while to get used to using computers to do my math for me. I’ve filled up at least 100 pages of notebook, granted, but I’ve also written at least a dozen Python scripts which have yielded a few gigabytes of data. I’m not sure I’m allowed to provide any of my results yet (UNCG owns the data and all that), but I’ve hit what seems to be a good stride.

Outside of work – did I mention we work six days a week? – there’s a lot of sleeping. There are 14 students in the program in total. We generally get together a few times a week. Greensboro isn’t what you’d call a bad town, but it’s mostly the university and bars, and only three people are over 21 here so that’s out of the question. It’s about a social as you’d expect for a bunch of math and computer science majors, but that suits me just fine. I’m catching up on movies and video games, and the gym here isn’t bad.  It’s a slight downgrade from the hectic life I have at NU, so I’ll savor it. Also, payday is Monday, so that’ll sit tight in my bank account till some lazy day in September when I decide cooking is for squares and go to Chicken Shack.

Until next time, hope everyone’s summer is as great as mine is. If anyone would like to know more about my topic, shoot me an email (you can look me up in the directory) and I’d be glad to talk more.

About the NU Intern Blogger Program
This summer, over 50 Northwestern University students will be sharing stories about what they are experiencing at their internships from across the country and internationally. Each week new students will share an inside look at what it means to be an intern. Please contact Betsy Gill, Assistant Director, Internship Services if you have any questions.

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