SIAM Survey to Target Professional Master's Programs

January 30, 2003

Career opportunities for mathematics professionals have changed dramatically over the past 25 years. Increasing numbers of graduates, at all degree levels, are now entering a variety of applications-focused jobs in the private sector. In the past few years, in response to this trend, a new class of professional science master's programs, many offering rich interaction with business, industry, and government, have been developed. An important priority for the continued growth of the profession is to understand the implications of this change, and to determine which new or modified degree programs will best serve the needs of tomorrow's students.

To this end SIAM, with funding from the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, will undertake a survey of emerging trends in applied mathematics at the master's level. The survey data will be used to provide information to universities and students about program changes that could improve the preparation of mathematics professionals for careers outside academia.

The Sloan Foundation has been in the vanguard of efforts to adapt traditional academic science programs to serve the emerging needs of an increasingly technological world. It has worked with professionals in a number of disciplines, including mathematics, physics, chemistry, and astronomy, to understand, and to nurture, important emerging trends in education. In applied mathematics, it has provided seed money to support the development of professional master's programs in industrial mathematics, computational science and technology, financial mathematics, biomathematics, and other areas. Its support for a survey of applied mathematics programs continues this commitment to encourage excellence in educational evolution. Sloan will also fund similar surveys in a number of other disciplinary areas.

The survey will be conducted electronically during the first quarter of 2003; results will be reported via the SIAM Web site and in SIAM News during the first half of 2003. SIAM will also produce a brochure with references to information that should be useful to applied mathematics departments as they consider their own needs for program development or modification. This information will also be presented at SIAM meetings, in the form of minisymposia that will describe the "nuts and bolts" of the program-development process, and discussions that will attempt to identify "best practices" in setting up and sustaining these programs.

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