The graduate Mathematics Program at Harvard is designed for students who hope to become research mathematicians and show definite promise in this direction. Once the student has demonstrated a command of basic mathematical concepts by passing the qualifying examination, the emphasis is on getting to the frontiers of some field by independent reading, advanced courses, and seminars. The Cambridge area is one of the most active centers of mathematics in the world. Harvard, Brandeis, and Northeastern Universities and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology have an especially close association in mathematics, sharing seminars and weekly colloquia. In addition, the Harvard Center of Mathematical Sciences and Applications hosts conferences, seminars, and workshops.
The PhD Program
The degree of doctor of philosophy is awarded to students who have demonstrated their mastery of the basic techniques of mathematics and their ability to do independent research.
The department values diversity among its members, is committed to building a diverse intellectual community, and strongly encourages applications from women and minorities.
Applications for transfer from other programs granting PhDs in mathematics are not ruled out, but are discouraged. Students are expected to finish the program in four or five years.
Harvard College students with advanced standing may work toward one-year master’s degree in mathematics by contacting the Harvard College advanced standing advisor. Candidates for the AB/AM degree in mathematics must meet both the academic and course requirements for the AB degree in mathematics and for the AM degree in mathematics. A given course can be counted for only one of the two degrees, i.e., one course cannot meet the requirement for the AB degree and then be counted again for the AM degree.
The formal requirements for the AM are a minimum academic residence of one year, eight half-courses in mathematics at 100 or 200 level, with at least four at the 200 level, and a reading knowledge of one of three languages—French, German, or Russian.
Only students with advanced standing are eligible to apply for this four-year program. Undergraduates taking graduate courses in their third year may bracket those courses they wish to apply toward their graduate degree. Candidates for the AB/AM degree must bracket courses by the beginning of the final term before graduation.
All students in the Department of Mathematics receive substantial financial support during their graduate training. This support may be in the form of fellowships, research assistantships, or teaching fellowships from Harvard, or fellowships and research assistantships from outside organizations, such as the National Science Foundation.
Students are strongly encouraged to apply for outside awards, especially predoctoral fellowship opportunities for US citizens provided by the Hertz Foundation, the National Defense Science and Engineering Graduate Fellowship Program, the National Physical Science Consortium for Minorities and Women, and the National Science Foundation.
Students without full outside support are required to teach as part of their financial aid package. Graduate students do not teach in their first year. Students begin as teaching fellows for one half-course (i.e., for a one-semester course) in their second through fifth years. Teaching fellows ordinarily teach their own sections of undergraduate calculus, with a course assistant to help with grading and problem sections. The department has a few upper-level tutorials available to experienced teaching fellows. All graduate students are required to participate in the Teaching Apprentice Program run by the department and demonstrate English proficiency before they may teach.