The Program for Evolutionary Dynamics offers supervised research opportunities for Harvard Students via its R.O.M.E. initiative.
- What kinds of problems do ROMEans consider?
Problems run the gamut from some really theoretical work (graph theory, probability theory, and statmech are the most common tools used) to some real experimental detective work (like finding all the English verbs that were irregular in the 15th century, part of an ongoing project on language evolution, or working in collaboration with one of Harvard's laboratories) and almost everything in between. There are many projects on particular phenomena that we want to understand, in areas like linguistics, biology, microfludics, genomics, etc. etc. These projects often involve some mix of theory, computation, and possibly experiment and historical research. (Since things like languages and texts evolve as well...)
- How much knowledge of mathematics and computer science is necessary to seriously consider participating in ROME?
Math and CS knowledge requirements vary by project. Some projects require a really keen mathematical aptitude, at the level of an entering graduate student in Mathematics or Theoretical CS. Some projects require really good programming skills, and a good background with languages like C++, Python, and MATLAB. And some projects just require general cleverness and hard work, but can be done without almost ever seeing a computer or an equation. So it really runs the gamut.
- I'm currently thinking about doing a senior thesis. Would ROME be a way for me to conduct research?
ROME is definitely a possibility. Students in Mathematics, Biology, Linguistics and Computer Science have all done theses through ROME.
- Do you need to have a research topic already in mind before applying?
Think about phenomena that you're interested in, across biology and the sciences as a whole. Emphasize things that evolve, like automata, difference equations, genomes, and languages, or anything else that comes to mind. Many of these phenomena will have unexplained aspects that we can consider exploring.
Nonetheless, there's no expectation that you'll have a project in mind when you apply. We're set up to help you find a really unique and personally interesting project 'while-U-wait.'
- I am considering applying to do ROME research. What are the logistical details and the time commitment required?
You're expected to do about 8-10 hours of research per week. If you're accepted to ROME, it can be done as part of the MATH 243 course, allowing you to get course credit as well.
- Are there any opportunities to do ROME research over the summer? How is ROME summer research structured (time, place, content)?
Yes it is possible to do ROME research during the summer. You need to apply very early to ensure the possibility of funding from the Harvard College Research Program and/or the Harvard Museum of Comparative Zoology. Another funding opportunity is the Herchel Smith-Harvard Undergraduate Science Research Program. These stipends will involve separate application processes. Please note that only Harvard undergraduates are eligible to apply for funding.
Early in the summer, you'll be paired with a ROME advisor from among the many researchers at PED and beyond. You'll work independently, and you'll meet periodically with your advisor for discussions of progress, and also attend ROME group meetings every few weeks. We've had some excellent students do ROME summer projects in the past and gotten great results. Our format for the summer is based more on independent student work than you might have in the average REU, for instance.