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Educating Mathematical Scientists: Doctoral Study and the Postdoctoral Experience in the United States
recruiting domestic doctoral students, postdoctoral associates, and junior faculty, specialized programs must be careful to pick the “best” candidate only if he/she fits into the areas of specialization of the program. Nevertheless, specialized programs are typically able to recruit domestic students, including women and underrepresented minorities, more effectively than standard programs, partly because of their ability to articulate their mission and place their graduates effectively. Placement is easier because, as the committee saw in its site visits, many specialized programs maintain close contact with regional colleges and industry as well as with former graduates. Industrial internships are a prominent feature of many of these programs, especially those in statistics and operations research.
Although the education in interdisciplinary, problem-based, and college-teachers programs is typically broader than that provided in standard programs, the depth can be somewhat less. This seems not to cause problems for students taking positions in industry or four-year colleges, but graduates seeking permanent positions at research universities sometimes need to further their education in a postdoctoral position.
More than simply alleviating human resource problems, the focused mission of a specialized program also promotes clustering of faculty, postdoctoral associates, and students, which helps create a positive learning environment and promote relevant professional development.
In the doctoral and postdoctoral system of mathematical sciences education in the United States, both standard and specialized programs are needed in theoretical as well as applied areas, and all of these kinds of programs can be successful. However, programs that do not have the human or financial resources to run a successful standard program should consider whether a specialized model might better fit their needs.