Undergraduate Research

“There are few experiences better suited to prepare a student for lifelong learning than an active participation in research early in his or her education. The only ‘prerequisites’ are curiosity, the willingness to learn something not contained in the standard curriculum, and to work on questions to which the answers are not known yet.”

UCSB Professor Herb Kroemer, winner of the Nobel Prize in Physics, 2000

Why Do Research as an Undergrad?

Your undergraduate education will benefit tremendously from outside research. Students that participate in research gain experiences and skills both academically and professionally that cannot be gained in a classroom setting. You'll also have the opportunity to network with professors, graduate students, and post-docs, and you'll get to contribute to the creation of new knowledge. Early research as an undergraduate will help you prepare for and clarify both academic and professional goals by challenging you to think critically and analytically, and to apply your classroom knowledge to real-world problems.

PSTAT 296: Research Opportunities for PSTAT Undergrads

To provide research opportunities for our majors, PSTAT 296A-B, Research Projects in Actuarial Science, is now open to top undergraduates in Actuarial Science, FMS and Statistical Science majors!  We invite top seniors from all PSTAT majors to apply. Admission is competitive and not guaranteed.

In the PSTAT 296A-B course sequence, students work on team research projects under supervision of PSTAT faculty members and in coordination with industry sponsors. All projects are of interest to the insurance industry; 2016-17 project areas are healthcare (of interest to actuaries and statistics students), systemic risk (of interest to actuaries and FMS students) and Property & Casualty insurance (of interest to actuaries). Previous PSTAT 296A-B projects employed such statistical methodologies as clustering, regression (including GLMs and logistic), time series, distribution fitting, simulation, etc. Students also get training in scientific writing, presentation skills, realistic data analysis, R programming, and group teamwork.

Application requirements: Students accepted into the five-year combined BS/MS in Actuarial Science program are guaranteed places in the class. Undergraduate students in actuarial science, FMS and statistics are accepted on a competitive basis. PSTAT 296AB can count as an elective or as a substitute for one of the required PSTAT courses. As a graduate course, PSTAT 296AB automatically gives honors units. Students pursuing the MA in Applied Statistics should not apply.

Undergraduate students should have a minimum overall GPA of 3.4, senior status, and A’s in courses relevant to the project areas of interest. For healthcare and P&C projects, the most relevant courses are in applied statistics; for systemic risk project the most important courses are PSTAT 160A-B, 170, 176. Students are not expected to have taken all these classes; a reasonable subset is sufficient.

Course structure: Students will work in teams of three for six months in the Fall 2016 and Winter 2017 quarters under supervision of a faculty member, and are required to produce a written project report and a poster for their project. Note that the commitment must be for 2 quarters (Fall and Winter). Students are also expected to present their results (poster) at UCSB’s Undergraduate Research Colloquium (URCA) in May 2017.

Typically, students meet with their faculty supervisor once a week to discuss results and directions for future work, but most of the work is done by student teams on their own.

If you are not good at independent work, or do not like team work, or are unable to responsibly schedule time for a large, long-term project, do not apply!

To substitute PSTAT 296A-B for a required PSTAT course, please discuss the option with a Facutly Undergraduate Advisor.

Further Resources

Undergraduate Research site

You can also contact the Office of Research for help finding research opportunities, or for questions regarding undergraduate research.