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AIM Program Mission and History

Rationale and Mission

The AIM Program is designed to be attractive to students who enjoy the interaction of mathematics with science, engineering or other quantitative disciplines. An AIM student does not necessarily have an undergraduate degree in mathematics, but can also be admitted with an undergraduate degree in a relevant application area.

The important aspect that all AIM students share regardless of undergraduate background is that they are comfortable with mathematical concepts and have a strong interest in applying them to some partner discipline (see the list of former students below for a representative but not at all exhaustive sample of potential partner disciplines). Students completing a degree in the AIM Program will be suitably trained for a research career in a world where mathematical sophistication is increasingly important in all areas of application.

Full details of the academic structure of the AIM Program are presented elsewhere on this site. At this time we wish to emphasize one novel aspect of the essential interdisciplinary nature of the program: every AIM Ph.D. student has not just one faculty advisor, but two co-advisors. One co-advisor can be any faculty member of the Department of Mathematics, and the other --- representing the student's chosen partner discipline --- can be chosen from any department other than mathematics at the University of Michigan. Some AIM students work so closely with their partner discipline co-advisor that they spend much of their time on thesis research outside of the Department of Mathematics. Others work more closely with their Mathematics co-advisor. The AIM Program is sufficiently flexible to support a wide range of working relationships among graduate students and their two co-advisors. The co-advisor system also ensures that AIM Ph.D. students are prepared for subsequent employment in two different kinds of academic departments, as well as in industry.

Although administered from the Department of Mathematics, AIM differs significantly from the Mathematics graduate program in the requirements for the M.S. and Ph.D. degrees, which are specially designed to account for more varied backgrounds of incoming graduate students and to showcase the essential interdisciplinary nature of the AIM Program. Details of these requirements can be found by following the links on the left.

AIM Program History

By the 1990's it became clear that the Department of Mathematics at the University of Michigan would benefit from an infusion of faculty working in interdisciplinary science, and due to the vision of former department chair D. Lewis an Interdisciplinary Initiative was formulated that produced a number of faculty positions devoted to this new area. The period 1997--1999 saw the development, institutional approval, and official accreditation of the AIM Graduate Program by a committee consisting of C. R. Doering and J. Sneyd under the leadership of then department chair B. A. Taylor. The first class of AIM graduate students was admitted in Fall of 2000 and now the program operates at an approximate equilibrium of about 30 Ph.D. students distributed over 5 classes. The M.S. program is smaller, and caters to professionals wanting to continue their education as well as students from undergraduate institutions. The Marjorie Lee Browne Scholars Program was added as an option for the AIM M.S. program in 2010.

The Directors of the AIM Program have been: C. R. Doering (1999 -- 2003), P. Smereka (2003--2008), P. D. Miller (2008--2012), R. Vershynin (2013--2014), S. Esedoglu (2014--2015), and S. Alben (2015--). It is fair to say that the Interdisciplinary Initiative has taken root at the University of Michigan. Indeed, in 2007 the applied mathematics faculty at the University of Michigan was ranked #1 in the country in the Faculty Scholarly Productivity Index calculated by Academic Analytics as reported in the Chronicle of Higher Education. This index included the contributions of both mathematics faculty and faculty from other departments, all of which are available to AIM Ph.D. students as co-advisors.

AIM Ph.D. Graduates