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Mathematics Department wins GAANN grant

Published: September 14, 2012
Section: News

The Brandeis mathematics department won a $533,000 GAANN (Graduate Assistance in Areas of National Need) grant from the Department of Education. The grant was awarded to the mathematics department for three years, and is designed to support four graduate students per year. “The grant has a very defined purpose,” Professor Daniel Ruberman (MATH) said. “It funds graduate students, and the rest goes to pay the university for expenses incurred on behalf of those students like tuition waivers and medical coverage.”
According to Ruberman, the mathematics department has applied three times for the GAANN grant, dating back ten years ago in 2002. The GAANN applications are scored, much like a test is scored, and each time the Brandeis mathematics department applied for the grant prior to winning, they received a score on their application from the Department of Education. From this score, the mathematics department was able to learn how to raise their eventual application score. After the third application, their efforts paid off, and the mathematics department received the GAANN grant.
“Each time we did the application we were able to change the application to raise the score,” Ruberman said. “Having the GAANN grant is good for business, and it makes a nice atmosphere to have more students around.”
Ruberman explained that each year, the mathematics department and the graduate school hold a discussion in order to learn how many graduate students Brandeis can accept per year on a certain budget. When sources of external funding are available, Brandeis can accept more graduate students. Often, external graduate grants offer higher stipends than the stipends Brandeis offers, which directly benefits graduate student recruiting efforts. “Accepting more students is the main point for us,” Ruberman said. “The GAANN grant’s higher stipend is pretty attractive, and can help us attract any number of good students. Regular graduate students in the sciences gets support from a university stipend, which is just one form of support.”
The Department of Education awards the GAANN grant annually to academic departments in colleges and universities that provide courses of study that lead to the highest degree of education in an area of national need. At the moment, areas deemed of “national need” are the sciences, including nursing, chemistry, computer and information sciences, mathematics, just to name a few. In order to make it possible for graduate students to study in these fields without having to worry about the expenses associated with graduate school, each year the Department of Education awards GAANN grants between the amounts of $100,000 and $750,000 to colleges and universities nationwide.
Although this is the first GAANN grant that has been awarded to the Brandeis mathematics department, the department is no stranger to National Science Foundation (NSF) awards, among other forms of external financial support. “We’re used to dealing with the NSF, which does the mass amount of funding,” Ruberman said.
According to the NSF webpage, since 2007 the Brandeis mathematics department has won 10 NSF Department of Mathematical Sciences (DMS) grants ranging from $115,175 to $385,512.
Ruberman mentioned the recent NSF grants saying, “for the last three years Brandeis has had an NSF-funded post doctoral student. Postdocs are people supported by grants, and the lab sciences are full of postdocs. Math is different, it’d be very nice if we could get more grant support to fund postdocs.”
“We’d be silly not to apply for another GAANN grant when the three years are up,” Ruberman concluded. “Relative to most of the world, we are a very small department holding our own and doing very well. The fact that we’re able to get grant support like this says something fairly strong about the way in which the outside world sees us. We’re pretty proud of that. It’s a very Brandeis style, like the little engine that could.”