Undergraduate Projects

Why choose to do a project?

There are several reasons why you may choose to do a project.

  • Gaining research experience: projects give you a taste of what mathematical research is like.
  • Developing transferable skills: the ability to collect material, organise it, expound it clearly and persuasively will be useful to many students in their future careers.
  • Pursuing your interests: a project allows you to pursue topics which interest you, whether that be a particular area of mathematics or a subject related to mathematics, such as the history of mathematics.
  • Demonstrating your understanding: the department recognises that some students might prefer to show their mathematical understanding and progress via a sustained piece of exposition rather than in a timed examination.

Opportunities to do Project Work

On Course
You can choose to undertake project work as one or more of the optional courses studied in Part B or Part C. These options cover the whole spectrum of mathematics and include topics related to mathematics, such as the history of mathematics and mathematics education. Information on the different options is given below.

Extracurricular Projects
There are also opportunities to undertake extracurricular projects, such as summer projects, during your studies. These projects are an excellent opportunity to gain experience of mathematical research.

Students' Experience of Projects

Summer Projects: "My summer project has been a fantastic opportunity to experience mathematical research, and has given me a really valuable taste of what it would be like to do postgraduate study. It's been great to be able to get engrossed in an area I knew relatively little about beforehand- probabilistic models used in genetics- and to be able to explore it in a less prescribed way than I am used to with lecture courses. The project was more varied than I expected: reading papers, posing new questions, working on these questions, discussing ideas with my supervisor and DPhil students and writing up what I'd done. I would very much recommend doing a summer project!"

"I really enjoyed doing a summer project as it's a completely different way of working compared to term time lectures and problem sheets. Not only was I introduced to some interesting theory about elliptic curves, I also got some general experience writing code and working with the command line. Our project involved about 10 people so it was incredibly useful to help each other and share ideas."

Projects in Part B

Several of the optional courses available at Part B are coursework options, which are assessed either partially or entirely by submitted work and, in some cases, oral presentations. A brief description of each course is given below; for further information see the Part B Synopses and the course webpage.

Extended Essays: these take the form of an extended piece of writing (7,500 words) on a topic in mathematics or a topic closely related to mathematics. See the extended essays and dissertations page for further information.

Mathematical Modelling and Numerical Computation Structured Projects: students are able to choose from a menu of around 7 to 8 possible projects that are designed to give an understanding of the applications of mathematics to live research problems. Students write up their research, give an oral presentation to a non-specialist audience and undertake a peer review.

History of Mathematics: this course is designed to provide a historical background to some of the mathematics studied at Prelims and Part A. Students develop skills in reading and analysing historical sources, essay-writing, oral discussion, and presentation. The course is assessed by an extended essay and a written examination.

Mathematics Education: this course covers a variety of topics from the psychology of learning mathematics to the role of mathematics education in society. It is assessed by two written assignments and a presentation.

Undergraduate Ambassadors' Scheme: this gives students the opportunity to experience assisting with teaching in schools. The course aims to improve students' communication, presentation, cooperation and organisational skills. The assessment for course is based on a submitted journal, a presentation, a written report and a report from the teacher the student assists.

Projects in Part C

The main opportunity to do project work in Part C is the Part C dissertation. In addition, some courses are assessed by mini-project rather than an invigilated, written examination.

Part C Dissertation: these take the form of an extended piece of writing (10,000 words) on a topic in mathematics or a topic closely related to mathematics. See the extended essays and dissertations page for further information.

Mini-Projects: these may involve researching and writing a short report on a topic from the lecture course. Alternatively, you might be given a series of questions to work through. These questions are likely to be more open-ended than those you would encounter in a written exam. For more information see the Part C synopses.

Extracurricular Projects

Summer Projects at Oxford

Each summer there are opportunities for students to stay in Oxford to work on a research project under the supervision of a member of the Mathematical Institute.  Summer projects last for between 4 and 10 weeks.  The projects usually require a knowledge of second-year mathematics and are principally aimed at second and third years (fourth year students are welcome to undertake summer projects too but some projects and funding sources will not be suitable for them).