Baruch’s Math Department Receives $40,000 Per Year from Jane St. Capital

For years, Baruch Math Professors Adam Sheffer and Pablo Soberón have run the NYC Discrete Math REU, not only mentoring countless students but helping to change the demographics of Mathematics PhD programs around the United States. 

Each summer, hundreds of promising undergraduate students from around the world apply to join Baruch College’s Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) Program. Sheffer and Soberón founded the program in 2017, and under their stewardship it has seen tremendous growth. Last summer, there were around 500 applicants for only 12 spots. “I guess you could say it’s become competitive,” Sheffer said.

Gathering in New York City for an 8-week intensive course of study, admitted undergraduates are given the opportunity to do advanced research work in combinatorics, discrete probability, theoretical computer science, and a variety of other topics. During this period, working closely with a dedicated faculty mentor, each student makes progress towards solving a problem on their own or collaboratively, sometimes publishing a paper. The real goal of the mentors, however, is not to publish but rather to support the student in whatever they wish to achieve as they go forward. These are all experiences that make alumni of the program especially desirable candidates for esteemed PhD programs. Like many REUs around the country, the program has typically received much of its funding from the National Science Foundation. Now, Baruch’s REU adds the Wall Street based global trading firm Jane St. Capital to its list of supporters. 

Jane Street Capital is one of the world’s largest market-makers, trading more than $17 trillion worth of securities in 2020. Jane St. heard about some of the success stories that have come out of the program and reached out offering their sponsorship. “Jane St. Capital has consistently provided generous support to the math community. They also hire many promising young mathematicians, usually not from CUNY, but from programs like MIT and Harvard,” Sheffer said. “So, out of the blue, they emailed me and said, ‘We want to sponsor your program. We’ll give you up to $40,000 a year.’”

Funding from the National Science Foundation helped make the program possible to begin with, but carries with it a number of stipulations. For one, it can only be used to fund students who are either American citizens or permanent residents. The Jane St. Capital funding on the other hand, will help the Baruch Math Department realize one of its main goals: expanding access to a high-quality mathematics education for students from disadvantaged backgrounds around the world. Many promising international students are not eligible to attend most summer programs, and this funding will help open the door to them.

“Our program is not meant to take just the people from MIT or Harvard. We get a ton of applications from these places, but that kind of misses the point of our larger mission within the math community,” said Sheffer. “We mostly try to take different types of students. Students who seem to have a lot of potential but have not yet had the opportunity to demonstrate it. That is where we feel we can really make a difference.”

For instance, in one of the other programs that Sheffer runs, he recently mentored a group of 30 students. Some were from universities like Columbia, Princeton, and Brown. But the best student in the group was from Egypt. “It was someone from the University of Egypt. He did amazing work and is an amazing person. So, of course I wrote him very strong letters of recommendation and really pushed him. He ended up getting accepted into several PhD programs in the US. I think that’s a case of someone with a tremendous amount of potential who, without the program, would have probably been limited to Egypt. Because of the program, he had a paper to show for himself. The paper even won an award. That’s how he managed to move to the US and do a PhD here. So now, with Jane St.’s help, I’m so pleased that we can continue to provide more opportunities to people like him from all over the world.”