Structure of the program
PROMYS is a challenging program designed to encourage ambitious high school students to explore the creative world of mathematics. Each summer, approximately 80 high school students from the US and other parts of the world gather on the campus of Boston University for six weeks of rigorous mathematical activity. Through their intensive efforts to solve an assortment of unusually challenging problems in Number Theory, participants will practice the art of mathematical discovery. The day begins with the Number Theory lecture which meets Monday through Friday from 9:00 a.m. to 10:00 a.m.. The more experienced students will also attend advanced classes. The students spend most of the remainder of their time working independently or in small groups on problem sets distributed at the end of each class meeting. The problems encourage students to design their own numerical experiments and to employ their own powers of observation to discover mathematical patterns, to formulate and test conjectures, and to justify their ideas by devising their own mathematical proofs. Students are advised by resident counselors: junior counselors who have just graduated high school and undergraduate counselors who are embarking on their own mathematical careers at some of the world's finest universities (over half attend Harvard, MIT, or Princeton). In addition, the returning students, who share dormitory rooms with the first-year students, are a constant source of helpful hints and suggestions. Senior mathematicians and Distinguished Alums in Residence are a constant resource providing mathematical support and encouragement to the students.
Advanced seminars and the Clay Mathematics Institute
Students who find their PROMYS experience especially worthwhile may be invited to return for a second summer to participate in the advanced PROMYS/CMI activities. To ensure that returning students and counselors find their experience intellectually stimulating, PROMYS, in partnership with the Clay Mathematics Institute, offers a variety of advanced seminars and mentored research projects each summer. In addition, counselors and advanced students organize their own seminars on topics of their choosing.
The regular program activities are supplemented by diverse weekly lectures by faculty preceptors and guests of the program. These lectures introduce participants to related scientific fields and include discussions of career development and the ethics and philosophy of science. Additionally, the counselors give lectures on topics of special interest and also hold their own seminars every week. Every week, the program members hold informal social gatherings which serve as a forum for open discussions on themes of general interest. Discussion topics include the relationship between pure and applied science, defense funding of mathematics, and career options. Special activities have included visits to the MIT robotics laboratory and nuclear reactor, the Boston Museum of Science and the Boston Computer Museum. Additionally, counselors and faculty plan numerous activities that vary from year to year and are organized according to demand. However, during the 6 weeks of the program, participants devote the bulk of their time and attention to mathematics.
In mathematics, maybe more than in any other science, research is an activity of the mind. The primary goal of the mathematician is to understand - to discover essential ingredients of complex systems in order to render them simple, to find order within apparent chaos, to draw analogies between different structures, and to find connections between seemingly disparate branches of mathematics and science. To make interesting new contributions in the field of mathematics requires a healthy mix of creativity, experience and hard work. The PROMYS program aims to provide an environment for talented young people that will arouse their curiosity and encourage a deep personal involvement with the creative and collaborative elements of mathematics and science. It is designed to encourage habits of thought that will lead to scientific independence and creativity. At the same time, it seeks to foster interaction between the PROMYS community and the larger community of research mathematicians and scientists currently working in academia and industry.
PROMYS was founded in 1989 by members of its current faculty who were former participants in the Secondary Science Training Program (SST) founded in 1957 by Arnold Ross. The PROMYS founders' own experiences in SST provided them with a theoretical model for PROMYS which they adapted to their own environment at Boston University to which they introduced strategies for the discovery of bright and eager young students from all backgrounds. PROMYS is dedicated to the principle that no student should be unable to attend due to financial need. PROMYS alumni form a dedicated group: many students return to PROMYS as counselors, mentors, lecturers, or faculty; very many return to visit and to maintain important social and intellectual bonds. Of all alumni old enough to start graduate school, almost 50% have acquired, or are working on, a doctorate - mostly math-related Ph.D.'s. Around 100 alums are currently professors, of whom about 70% are math professors with additional alum professors in computer science, physics, chemistry, biology, medicine, law, philosophy and other fields.
Further details of the program can be found at the PROMYS website.