Berkeley Connect

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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 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

Claire MirochaClaire Mirocha is a PhD candidate in Math.

Where did you grow up?

Tucson, Arizona

Where did you go to college and what was your major?

I majored in art history at the University of Arizona, Art History, and studied math post-college at UT Austin.

How would you describe your research in a sentence or two?

I like to study algebra and topology at the same time, and think about how these perspectives can help us more precisely understand surfaces and spaces in various dimensions.

Adele PadgettAdele Padgett is a PhD candidate in Math.

Where did you grow up?

Lincolnshire, IL

Where did you go to college and what was your major?

I went to the University of Chicago and majored in math.

How would you describe your research in a sentence or two?

Right now, I am working to prove certain properties of a very fast growing function.

Mariana Vicaria is a PhD candidate in Math.

Where did you grow up?


Where did you go to college and what was your major?

Universidad de los Andes, Mathematics

How would you describe your research in a sentence or two?

I am interested in the model theory of valued fields and related structures, such as ordered abelian groups. I am working to obtain elimination of imaginaries in multivalued fields and residue field domination results.

Semester Activities

Week 1: Opening video introduction
Wednesday, Aug 26
We will post a video explaining what Berkeley Connect is about, and how the semester is going to work.

Week 2: Small group meetings: Introduction to the small group
Tues, Wed , Sept 1/2, 6-7pm or 7-8pm
During this first small group meeting you will get to know your mentor and fellow students.

Week 3: One-on-one meetings with your mentor
Sept 7-11
This week you will meet privately with your mentor to discuss the math courses you are taking this fall and your hopes for this semester of Berkeley Connect.

Week 4: Small group meetings: Studying during a pandemic
Tues, Wed, Sept 15/16, 6-7pm or 7-8pm
The idea of this small group meeting is for students to share tips for how to
study, how to stay motivated, how to connect with other people, etc. when the whole world has gone online.

Week 5: Field trips
Sept 21 – 25 Virtual Puzzle hunt

Week 6: Small group meetings: Mathematics and Media
Tues, Wed , Sept 29/30, 6-7pm or 7-8pm
In this panel we will discuss how math is portrayed in the media, the movies, and by society. Are these stereotypes correct? Are they good?

Week 7: Panel on Mathematics Graduate School
October 7, 6pm
Should you consider graduate studies in mathematics? How should you organize your undergraduate 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.

Week 8: Small group meetings: Math and Society
Tues, Wed, Oct 13/14, 2015, 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 mathemat- ical 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 9: Career Panel
Tuesday October 20, 7pm
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.

Week 10: Small group meetings: Virtual education: present and future
Tues, Wed, Oct 27/28, 6pm-7pm or 7pm-8pm
The pandemic will have a lot of influence on how things will be done in the future. Some say that the impact on education will be great. We will discuss where do we think virtual education will go after the pandemic. Will we go back to normal? Will some classes stay virtual for ever? What will change?

Week 11: Panel on Summer research and internships
Wednesday November 4th, 6pm
How can or should you study mathematics over the Summer? Would a research experience for undergraduates 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.

Week 12: One-on-one meetings with your mentor
Nov 9-13
This second private meeting with your mentor may be an especially good opportunity to discuss your plans for the coming semester.

Week 13: Small group meetings: Paradoxes in mathematics
Tues, Wed, Nov, 17/18, 6pm-7pm or 7pm-8pm
Formal mathematical reasoning may sometimes lead to statements that seem intuitively paradoxical. These paradoxes are not just curiosities. When formal reasoning conflicts with intuitions, is because there is something we need to understand better.

Week 14: Thanksgiving (no meetings)

Week 15: Small group meetings: Conclusions
Tues, Wed, Dec 1/2, 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.
RRR week: Don’t forget to fill in the survey!


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,,

or Nikhil Srivastava,

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

Links & Resources