Mathematics, Physics, Computer Science Research Scholars

The Mathematics, Physics, Computer Science Research Scholars (MapCores) program is a special program for women. The program started with the incoming students in the fall of 2009. In December 2009, the College of Saint Benedict was given a grant by the National Science Foundation which is supporting the MapCores classes that began at the College of Saint Benedict  in 2010 and 2011.

Students who are accepted into this program will receive a scholarship of $21,000 (4-year value of $84,000). This select group of women will gain cross-disciplinary academic and research experiences which will help prepare them for careers in these fields. 

Curricular Program

Women in the MapCores program will go through a program that starts with a special science-focused Honors First-Year Seminar, continues in the sophomore year with a Problem Solving Seminar, then a Research Seminar in the junior year, and finally a Senior Research Project in the senior year. Participants will also have access to summer research opportunities on and off campus.

First Year Seminar (FYS)

MapCores participants will be enrolled in a special section of FYS for students in this program, taught jointly by members of the Mathematics, Computer Science, and Physics departments. The students will primarily read materials about science, including the philosophy of science and science policy. Women in MapCores will be introduced to scientific literature, will evaluate and discuss scientific arguments, and will conduct a library research project in one of the MapCores fields.

This FYS program will create a supportive learning community and introduce the participants to scientific research in a way they would not obtain otherwise from courses. The instructors for this course will also be the students' first academic advisors so the students will have an immediate connection to their academic departments in their first year.

Problem Solving Seminar

Each semester of their sophomore year students will take a one credit class in which they will be divided into small, interdisciplinary groups and given mathematical or scientific problems to solve. Example problems could include:

  • programming robots to follow mazes;
  • examining chaos theory from the calculus perspective and writing short computer programs demonstrating chaos;
  • studying Global Positioning Systems (GPS), taking some GPS measurements and manually duplicating the calculations done by the GPS devices.

Research Seminar

Each semester of their junior year students will take a one credit class in which the students will work small research problems in groups. Some of these problems may build on the problems from the previous year. Example topics include:

  • testing several options for parallelizing the solution of a system of differential equations on a Linux cluster;
  • applying chaos theory to population growth in local ecosystems;
  • or using variations in GPS measurements to study changes in the ionosphere.

Senior Research Project

MapCores participants will do a year long research project or senior thesis. Students in the program will meet weekly to present ideas, brainstorm and present partial results. All of our students will present their work on the CSB/SJU Scholarship and Creativity Day, an annual one-day festival of creativity at which students in all disciplines present the results of their research projects to the wider CSB/SJU academic community.

Selection Process

Women will be invited to enter the MapCores program based on their:

  1. high school GPA and grades in mathematics and science classes
  2. placement test scores
  3. motivation to pursue a scientific career
  4. ability to communicate their goals
  5. financial need.

In order to be considered for this program, women must be admitted to the College of Saint Benedict and indicate an interest in math, physics, computer science or pre-engineering on their college application. To ensure consideration for this program students should try to apply to the College of Saint Benedict by November 15, and should certainly apply by December 15. The MapCores team will then choose qualified candidates to interview for entry into the program. Students who also qualify for the Trustees' Scholarship will be able to interview for both programs on the same day.

Students should fill out the appropriate financial aid forms in order to be considered for MapCores. Note that though financial need is a factor in the selection of students for this program, some students without financial need may be chosen.

Program Requirements

To remain in this program, students must:

  1. be enrolled full-time at the College of Saint Benedict;
  2. enroll in and complete the courses required by this program;
  3. make satisfactory progress toward a major in mathematics, computer sciences, physics, applied physics, or numerical computation;
  4. take at least one course in one of the other MapCores disciplines;
  5. and make satisfactory progress towards their degree.

Contact Information

For further information on this program see our Frequently Asked Questions page or contact:


This material is based upon work supported by the National Science Foundation under Grant No. 0965705.

Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation.

Are You Interested in MapCores?

If you are interested in being considered for the MapCores program and you are graduating high school in 2016 or later, please complete the short "I'm Interested in MapCores" form.

Please note that completion of this form simply indicates your interest in MapCores. It does not guarantee consideration for the program, nor does it commit you to the MapCores program and/or the College of Saint Benedict if selected.

Outstanding Women

Sarah Knepper
CS major, Math minor

Sarah worked with Michael Heroux on his Sandia National Lab projects and wrote her senior thesis on algorithms for solving problems involving complex-valued matrices.  When she graduated, she received the prestigious National Defense Fellowship. Sarah is currently attending Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia where she is working on a project involving motion correction of Positron Emission Tomography (PET) images.

Nicole Kessler

Nicole Kessler
Physics major, Math minor 

After her sophomore year Nicole was one of the first participants in the Summer Science Research Exchange Program in China.  After her junior year she did research at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center regarding heavy water on Venus. After graduating from CSB, Nicole went to work for NASA at Johnson Space Center and she is currently a flight controller for the International Space Station. She works in the Environmental and Thermal Operating Systems (ETHOS) group.