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The Berkeley Connect program opens up the extraordinary resources of the university to you: the extraordinary students on our campus. By joining, you will become part of a community of like-minded faculty, mentors, and students that will provide a supportive environment in which to exchange and discuss ideas and goals. Berkeley Connect will help you to make the most of your time at the university as you learn more about the major in Math. We’re excited to get to know you!

Message from the Directors

Antonio MontalbanWould you like to talk with other students about the practice of math? Get personalized mentoring? Explore what you can do once you graduate? If so, consider joining Berkeley Connect in Mathematics! When you enroll, you are assigned a mentor (an advanced graduate student) and placed in a small group (of not more than 20 students) led by your mentor. Activities include small-group discussions (biweekly informal conversations about everything you need to know as a math major, like how to write a proof, what to do in the summers, etc); one-on-one advising, focused on your academic questions, concerns, and aspirations; and special events featuring distinguished math faculty and alums, including a career panel. No papers, exams, or outside reading are required, just lots of face-to-face interaction with others who share your passion for math.

Professors Antonio Montalban & Nikhil Srivastava
Faculty Director, Berkeley Connect in Math

Program Description

Berkeley Connect links undergraduate students with experienced mentors in Math. These mentors lead small groups of 10-20 students in regular meetings; they also meet with students one-on-one to provide guidance and advice. The core of the Berkeley Connect program is a one-credit, pass-fail course that is designed to create a community of students with similar intellectual interests. There is no homework associated with Berkeley Connect: no exams, no papers, no quizzes. Instead, small group meetings focus on sharing ideas and learning new skills within the Math major as a way to foster friendships and provide a supportive intellectual community for Berkeley undergraduates.The only requirement for joining Berkeley Connect in Math is that you have an interest in the field of study. You do not have to be a major in order to participate! Undeclared freshmen and sophomores are welcome, along with entering junior transfers and juniors and seniors who have declared the major.

Every semester, Berkeley Connect sponsors a wide range of activities and events for participating students.  They include:

  • small-group meetings led by your mentor;
  • one-on-one meetings with your mentor;
  • special events, including informal lectures by professors and guest speakers, and panels on career options, graduate school admissions, and other topics;
  • and visits to Berkeley resources.

At the heart of Berkeley Connect is the relationship between you and your mentor. The Berkeley Connect mentors are advanced graduate students or recent PhDs in Math, who are chosen both for their demonstrated commitment to undergraduates and for their scholarly achievement. They are dedicated to providing the kind of close-knit community and one-on-one attention that can be hard to find at a large university.

When you sign up for Berkeley Connect, you will join one of several small groups of participants in Math. Your small group will be led by your mentor, and will meet every other week during the semester for an hour-long dinner discussion sessions. Discussions will focus on key intellectual issues within Math as well as key skills you need to succeed in the major. Above all, the small groups will focus on building connections among students, so that each group becomes a supportive community for all participants.

You will also meet with your mentor one-on-one at least twice during the semester, once to get acquainted, and a second time just before Tele-Bears, to discuss your plans for completing your major. Your mentor also has office hours every other week, during which you are free to show up and ask questions, talk over your day or your week, discuss what you are learning in class, or just have an informal conversation.


Antonio MontalbanAntonio Montalban grew up and did his Bachelor’s degree in Uruguay, got his Ph.D. from Cornell, and then became a professor at the University of Chicago. He’s been an Associate Professor in Mathematics at U.C. Berkeley for the last four year. His area of research is Logic. You can learn more at his web page.

Nikhil SrivastavaNikhil Srivastava

Nikhil is from New Delhi and grew up travelling around the world with diplomat parents. He went to Union College for a bachelor’s degree and then to Yale for a Ph.D, after which he worked at Microsoft Research in India for a few years before coming to Berkeley in 2015. He does research in theoretical computer science and various flavors of linear algebra, and enjoys squash, snowboarding, and cooking with a blowtorch.

Berkeley Connect Mentors

Kevin O'NeillKevin O’Neill is a math PhD student studying harmonic analysis under Michael Christ. Born and raised in Berkeley, he spent his undergrad years at Harvey Mudd College in Southern California before returning home for graduate school. Kevin hopes to pass on some of the same support and non-course specific knowledge that helped him get where he is today. In his free time, he enjoys running and spending time with friends.

Rockford Sison is a PhD candidate in Applied Mathematics. They grew up in Washington D.C. and Maryland before road-tripping out West. Rocky is 6’6″, usually stressing about wedding planning, and has played over 40 different board games.

Semester Activities

Week 1: Opening meeting

Thu, Jan 24, 5pm in 1015 Evans.

We will meet as a large group to kick off this semester’s Berkeley Connect in Mathematics.  You  will  get to know your classmates, the program directors, and your mentors. We will discuss what the pro- gram is about what what we plan to do during the semester.

Refreshments will be served.

Week 2: Small group meetings: Introduction to the small group

Tue/Wed, Jan 29/30, 6-7pm or 7-8pm.

During this first small group meeting you will get to know your mentor and fellow students through     a discussion of the mathematics you have already studied and what you are eager to learn. You already know that the mathematical landscape is much broader than it had seemed when you were in high school; you may be surprised to learn just how far it extends both through greater abstraction and un- expected applications. Come with questions about mathematical conundrums and higher mathematics.

Week 3: One-on-one meetings with your mentor

Feb 4-Feb 8.

This week you will meet privately with your mentor to discuss the math courses you are taking this spring and your hopes for this semester of Berkeley Connect.

Week 4: Panel on Summer research and internships

Thu, Feb 14, 5pm, 1015 Evans.

How can or should you study mathematics over the Summer? Would a research experience for un- dergraduates program be right for you? Should you take one of the core upper division classes during a summer term? Which internships might be best for you? A representative from the Career Center and from a summer research program and students who have participated in research programs will answer these questions and the others you raise.

Refreshments will be served.

Week 5: Small group meetings: Transitions

Tue/Wed, Feb 19/20, 6-7pm or 7-8pm.

Just as discontinuities, phase shifts and critical points are the crucial elements of mathematical pro- cesses, so they are in mathematical education. What is expected from a student and what common knowledge is assumed shifts as a student moves from high school to college, from lower division to up- per division, from a community college to UC, or from classroom study to research. This week we will discuss the changing nature of your studies with the emphases adapted to your situation. Some specific topics are described below. Some of these will be further explored in following small group meetings.

  • For lower division classes, it not so hard to find short on-line tutorials explaining most every topic, but it is harder to find such electronic guidance at higher levels. Where should you look?
  • Even reasonably complete proofs may contain shorthand arguments beginning with “WMA”, “w/o log”, “by a similar argument”,  or “by a simple induction”.  What do these arguments mean?  How  can one flesh them out to full arguments?
  • Most lectures in upper division and graduate classes consist of presentations by the professor of formal definitions, statements of theorems, proofs of the theorems, and possibly some instantiations of the definitions and theorems through examples. What is involved in understanding this kind of material?
  • More to the point, how does one read a mathematics book? Learning patterns of certain classes of problems which may be solved with a given technique does not suffice.
  • What distinguishes an undergraduate class from a graduate class on ostensibly the same topic?
  • The passage from a student learning about mathematical discoveries to a researcher seeking novel mathematical insights can be daunting. What resources are available to you? How can you tell that your research is progressing? How can you experience mathematical research as an undergraduate?

Week 6: Field trips

Feb 25-Mar 1, details and times to be announced later.

We will check out some free, interesting resources on campus, not necessarily related to math. Pos- sibilities include: MSRI, the Berkeley Art Museum, public lectures at the Simons Institute, and the Bancroft Library’s collection of ancient and rare mathematical texts.

Week 7: Small group meetings: Reading and writing mathematics

Tue/Wed, Mar 5/6, 6-7pm or 7-8pm.

We are taught to read and write the spoken word, but very little attention is paid to reading and writing mathematics. In lower division courses, you probably solved problems by starting with some equation you learned. Then you might factor, substitute, or simplify until you get your answer. What-  ever logic you might be using is implicit in the equations. But professional mathematicians do not write in this way. We use complete sentences following certain simple rules. We use key words to help the reader follow our logic. We try to be concise, yet clear. We  will learn these rules and see how they play  out in articles that are well written and how they are ignored in homework and even published articles, where they are not followed.

Week 8: One-on-one meetings with your mentor

Mar 11-15.

This second private meeting with your mentor may be an especially good opportunity to discuss your plans for the coming semester.

Week 9: Career Panel

Wed Mar 20 or Thu 21, 6pm, 1015 Evans.

Alumni who have taken their mathematical skills into various industries (IT, finance, teaching, academia, civil service) will convene to discuss their experiences and to offer advice about how you might follow   their steps.

Refreshments will be served.

Week 10: Spring Break

(no meetings)

Week 11: Small group meetings: Famous unsolved problems of math

Tue/Wed, Apr 2/3, 6pm-7pm or 7pm-8pm.

Most people think that everything there is to know in math is already known. That’s far from true. Even  if much is known, there are still many questions mathematicians have never been able to solve. We will discuss some of those questions.

Week 12: Panel on Life in mathematics

Wed Apr 10 or Thu Apr 11, 5pm, 1015 Evans.

A small group of Berkeley mathematics professors will discuss their own lives in mathematics; how they came to be mathematicians, what doing mathematics means in practice, and how the practice of mathematics shapes their lives. Come with your questions.

Refreshments will be served.

Week 13: Small group meetings: mathematics in history and in practice

Tue/Wed, Apr 16/17, 6-7pm or 7-8pm.

We often treat mathematics as if it were an abstract, ahistorical subject existing independently of people, but while there may be some philosophical debate about the reality and necessity of mathe- matical truths, it is clear that mathematics has developed within history and is tied up with the lives of real people. This week we will discuss some fascinating case studies in the history of mathematics, for example concerning the debates about the foundations of calculus, and talk about the social context in which mathematics is practiced.

Week 14: Panel on Mathematics Graduate School

Wed Apr 24 or Thu Apr 25, 5pm, 1015 Evans.

Should you consider graduate studies in mathematics? How should you organize your undergrad-  uate studies to improve your chances of succeeding in graduate school and beyond?   How is the life of a mathematics graduate student?  For  what other forms of graduate studies does your education as     a mathematics major prepare you? Come for a panel discussion with professors and current graduate students about graduate studies in mathematics.

Refreshments will be served.

Week 15: Small group meetings: Conclusions

Tue/Wed, Apr 30/May 1, 6-7pm or 7-8pm.

We conclude the semester by continuing the discussions from our earlier meetings and by having some fun with math by playing some mathematical games while learning some of the theory behind winning strategies.


To find sections in the upcoming semester, search the Schedule of Classes for Math 98BC (for first-year and sophomores) or 198BC (for juniors and seniors).To help you meet other students who share your experiences and perspectives, Berkeley Connect sections are designated as lower division (first-year students and sophomores), new junior transfers, and upper division (juniors and seniors), but you can enroll in any section that fits your schedule and credit requirements.

How to Sign Up

To participate in Berkeley Connect in Math, you enroll in a designated section of Math 98BC or 198BC (one unit, taken on a Pass/Not Pass basis). Many students chose to enroll for more than one semester. Participation is NOT restricted to declared majors.To sign up, enroll in a Berkeley Connect section when course registration opens.  Please see the Berkeley Connect sections listed above under “Schedule.”

**Read the schedule notes carefully—different sections are designated as primarily for lower-division (freshmen and sophomores), upper-division (juniors and seniors), or junior transfer students.

If you are interested in participating in Berkeley Connect, but course registration is not currently open, you can join the Berkeley Connect Mailing List, and you will be sent more details when the next semester’s information becomes available.

Contact Us

Please see our FAQs.  If you have additional questions about Berkeley Connect in Math, please contact:  Faculty Directors Antonio Montalban, antonio@math.berkeley.edu,

or Nikhil Srivastava, srivastn@berkeley.edu

You can also contact the central Berkeley Connect office at berkeleyconnect@berkeley.edu or (510)664-4182.

Links & Resources