Jess & Mildred Fisher College of Science & Mathematics


Applied Mathematics Laboratory

Team Structure

Each team shall be composed of a director, a co-director, a team of students. The sponsor shall provide a liaison to the team.

Teamwork

For many students the experience of working with a team is a new one. There is an adjustment to be made by everyone to the needs and temperament of the other team members. The student must learn to handle the demands of sharing, keeping pace with others, explaining, listening, and carrying one’s own portion of the load to meet deadlines and goals. It is expected that some students will have more trouble than others in making the adjustment. The process is part of the learning experience. An open atmosphere should always be maintained so that the team can always be honest with itself and can come to the Applied Mathematics Laboratory Committee if there are serious difficulties. The team directors should spend the beginning of each semester discussing the importance of learning to work well together.

Management

The team directors manage the team. The duties of the directors appear below. Ultimately, the faculty directors are responsible for the progress of the team toward the solution of the sponsor’s problem. There is a delicate balance here in allowing the team to proceed with its ideas at the self-directed pace and in acknowledging the deadlines that are set by the rigidity of the academic year. The writing and production of a semester’s report take about one month, and time should be allotted for that important task. It is, after all, what remains with the sponsor when the work is done.

The preparation of bibliographic material and the collection of data done by the faculty during the summer before students begin the project can blind them to the options and creativity presented by students. Yet should the students falter, the management must be ready to prod and guide the team to avenues that promise some success in solving the problem. The skill of the director is put to a serious test. He/she must not solve the problem for the team, but make suggestions, plant ideas, and allow the team to process them and map out its plan. The director is well advised to break the group into subgroups assigned to different tasks as it becomes necessary. It is here that the faculty co-director can be of the greatest assistance. For he/she can be working with these subgroups on a daily and individual basis until they are ready to report to the entire team. Of course, the final plan for the team management is the responsibility of the faculty director. The encouragement of creativity and initiative and the creation of an environment of cooperation and group learning and respect rests with the director.

Faculty Director

The faculty director is selected by the Applied Mathematics Laboratory Director in consultation with the Chairperson of the Department of Mathematics and the Applied Mathematics Laboratory Committee. The prospective faculty directors will be invited to lead a team by the Director of the Applied Mathematics Laboratory in consultation with the Committee, the department chairperson and the sponsor. A willingness to meet the challenge and some expertise in the area of the proposed problem are required.

The faculty director must be a full-time regular faculty member in the Department of Mathematics. He/she shall be listed as the instructor of MATH 495 or MATH 496, whichever is appropriate, and receive three (3) credits on the teaching load. In addition, the faculty director receives three (3) hours release time for each semester in which he/she serves as director.

The Applied Mathematics Laboratory will provide a stipend for the faculty members during the preparation and preliminary research period, usually in the summer preceding the team effort. It is expected that the faculty members make themselves available for some reasonable period during that time so that they can prepare for the arrival of the students in the fall. The data should be obtained, bibliography prepared and a tentative schedule set. This should be in consultation with liaison personnel assigned by the sponsor.

The duties of the faculty director are:

  1. to meet with the sponsor and Director of the Applied Mathematics Laboratory regularly to define the scope of the research project,
  2. to draft the research proposal for presentation to the sponsor,
  3. to give final approval to the choice of student team members and faculty co-director;
  4. to do preliminary research in order to prepare a time schedule, secure bibliographic materials, and ascertain the availability of data and software before students start the research themselves,
  5. to schedule and conduct weekly progress report meetings with the entire team,
  6. to set appropriate deadlines for orderly and productive research and to see that these are met,
  7. to schedule and lead seminars relevant to the project when necessary,
  8. to schedule, with the sponsor and the Director of the Applied Mathematics Laboratory, the interim and end-of-the-semester oral presentations.
  9. to supervise the production of semester and final written reports,
  10. to consult regularly with the co-director as to assignment of tasks and all other responsibilities listed above, and
  11. to assign semester grades to students.

Faculty Co-Director

The faculty co-director is chosen by the Director of the Applied Mathematics Laboratory with the approval of the faculty director of the project, the Applied Mathematics Laboratory Committee, and the Chairperson of the Department of Mathematics. The faculty co-director is usually a full-time regular faculty member at Towson University. In some cases, faculty outside the Department of Mathematics may be asked to take this responsibility, and in that case, the chairperson of his/her home department must give approval. The faculty co-director shall receive three (3) credits of release time for every semester in which he/she acts in this capacity.

The faculty co-director shall be expected:

  1. to assist the faculty director in every phase of the planning and execution of the research project and preparation of the report,
  2. tolead seminars,
  3. to attend every class meeting,
  4. to supervise the assignment and fulfillment of research tasks,
  5. to meet with small groups of students working on specific tasks,
  6. to provide continuity by integrating new team members into the research environment at mid-year, and
  7. to assist the director by evaluating students regularly and by helping to assign grades.

Student Team Members

The students will be chosen with the final approval of the team directors. Interest in the problem and proven skills in the necessary mathematical sciences will be the primary criteria for selection of students. However, the Applied Mathematics Laboratory Committee recognizes that not every person will have every necessary skill, hence the best mix of abilities and talents for the problem at hand will be extremely important. Students whose personalities indicate that they are adaptable, cooperative, and responsible will be given highest priority. The ability to work independently and yet to be able to share and be receptive to the ideas of others will be essential to the team effort. Also high on the priority list is excellence in written and oral communication. From the students' vita, their grade point averages and faculty recommendations, a selection will be made. A student need not commit himself or herself to more than one semester. Students from majors outside mathematics will be invited whenever that seems appropriate.

Each student receives three (3) credit hours for each of the courses MATH 495 and MATH 496. Students may take either of the courses without the other. The responsibilities of the students on the team are quite substantial. While the faculty members are expected to be so familiar with the project that they can steer the students to a prudent and fruitful approach, it is hoped that the students themselves will be searching for the methods and techniques which will solve their project. This is a time consuming and demanding course, and students are reminded that their course load and outside employment should be as light as possible while they are involved with the Applied Mathematics Laboratory course. The student team member is expected:

  1. to attend and participate in all class meetings and small group sessions to which he/she is assigned,
  2. to meet individually with a faculty member each week for intensive research guidance,
  3. to participate in special seminars pertinent to the investigation,
  4. to prepare portions of the interim and final semester reports as assigned,
  5. to arrange for the preparation of visual aids, graphs, charts and graphics as needed for oral and written presentations, and
  6. to contribute and cooperate as a team member for the attainment of team goals.

Sponsor Liaison

Every sponsor is expected to assign a sponsor liaison with whom the faculty directors can confer on a regular basis. The sponsor liaison should:

  1. be available to the director for help in the specification of the research proposal prior to the contractual agreement,
  2. be in attendance at the interim and end-of-semester oral presentations,
  3. decide who are to be invited guests at these presentations,
  4. advise the director as to the availability of requested data, and to provide the means of getting what is available in a suitable form for the team’s research,
  5. advise the director, as to the proprietary nature of the data so that sensitive data can be protected,
  6. receive monthly team progress reports from the director,
  7. be available to the team director on a weekly basis for consultation, and
  8. receive the final report, and
  9. advise the director if and when preparation of a scholarly research paper by the faculty members can be attempted based on any part of the team’s effort on behalf of the sponsor. The faculty directors are expected to obtain written permission to proceed after the termination of the contract with the sponsor.

At the beginning of each semester, the Director of the Applied Mathematics Laboratory meets with each team to explain carefully all operating procedures. Resources available to the team - financial, equipment, secretarial and clerical, etc. are specified. Procedures to be followed in using these resources and/or requesting others are discussed. Telephone numbers, office locations and hours, are distributed and a complete schedule of required meetings, and deadlines is presented. Team etiquette with respect to the sponsor is discussed. Communications with the sponsor are made only by the faculty directors and through the sponsor liaison. Students are not to assume that they may call the liaison or visit the sponsor unless specifically invited to do so by the liaison or the faculty director. The sponsor personnel are busy people, responsible for many projects aside from ours, and the team members should keep this in mind at all times.

Communication

The faculty directors and the Director of the Applied Mathematics Laboratory should meet about once a month to discuss the progress of the team, to learn what work has been planned for the coming month, to ascertain any unexpected equipment, software or library requirements, to schedule any special seminars and to deal with any problems with team members. These monthly reports should be the basis of a brief, monthly report given to the sponsor liaison. The purpose of such a report is to keep the sponsor informed of progress and to allow the sponsor the opportunity to question, redirect, or clarify areas in which the research might seem to be off the track. More information may be made available to the team by the sponsor if the progress of the research is known. All reports to the sponsor should be filed with the Director of the Applied Mathematics Laboratory.

 


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