To help prepare graduate students in the mathematical sciences for careers in business, industry, and government, the Johns Hopkins Whiting School of Engineering and the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign are partnering to create the Internship Network in the Mathematical Sciences (INMAS).

Supported by a five-year, $4 million grant from the National Science Foundation’s Division of Mathematical Sciences, the new program aims to create regional networks of mathematical sciences departments that provide training and internship experiences to doctoral students that lead to “mathematically meaningful” careers outside of academia, according to network co-founder Fadil Santosa, professor and head of the Department of Applied Mathematics and Statistics at the Whiting School.

“Mathematical sciences departments traditionally have prepared PhD students primarily for careers in academia. But because of substantial growth in these programs across the country, the number of PhDs produced is now much greater than the number of tenure-eligible jobs. As a result, a few years into their postdoctoral positions, many see better career opportunities in business, industry, and government (BIG). Our goal is to prepare them for these positions,” says Santosa.

Johns Hopkins and University of Illinois will operate as network “hubs,” connecting to other institutions with sizable numbers of doctoral students and providing training programs to prepare students with the technical and professional skills they need for productive internships in BIG. Students will be carefully matched with internship positions. The Math Alliance—a nation-wide mentoring network for underrepresented or underserved students in the mathematical sciences—will participate as a virtual node.

“Students will be impacted not only educationally, but also personally as these internships have the potential to change the direction of their lives. Engagement of students from underrepresented groups increases diversity in BIG and opens doors toward high-ranking positions for students, where they may also serve as role models,” says INMAS co-founder Richard Laugesen, professor of mathematics at University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

Laugesen and Santosa expect the project to also strengthen the competitiveness and effectiveness of BIG organizations, as interns create new research and development tools that will lead to greater efficiency, productivity, and profitability.

“This program will meet the critical need for training the next generation of mathematical scientists and data analysts in business, industry, and government,” says Juan C. Meza, director for the NSF Division of Mathematical Sciences. “In addition, the program also helps small to mid-sized companies by providing them with mathematical expertise to enhance their competitiveness.”

Laugesen and Santosa are optimistic that this project will also leave small-to-medium-sized organizations with a greater appreciation of the power of mathematical sciences, and will encourage universities to engage more strongly in these mutually beneficial relationships.