David Harold Blackwell Summer Research Institute

A collaboration between the UC Berkeley Electrical Engineering and Computer Sciences (EECS) department, the UCLA Math department and the Stanford bioengineering department.

Lawrence Berkeley Nat’l Lab – Roy Kaltschmidt, photographer

about the program

David Harold Blackwell (1919-2010)
David Harold Blackwell (1919-2010)

David Harold Blackwell is widely regarded as the top African-American mathematician of the 20th century.  As the first African-American elected to the National Academy of Sciences who made seminal contributions to the fields of statistics, economics, probability theory, and information theory, he epitomized the word excellence in all fields he touched. We aim to honor Blackwell’s legacy by attempting to increase the number of undergraduate students who aspire to achieve his level of excellence and widen participation of African-American men and women in obtaining PhDs in the mathematical sciences. This research program will take place on the UCLA and UC Berkeley campuses, from June 21 to July 30, 2021. The last week of the program includes a trip to Berkeley, where all program participants will meet with each other and share their work, hosted by the Simons Institute for the Theory of Computing. African Americans comprise 4% of PhDs in engineering and 3% of PhDs in mathematics granted from 2010-2020.

The David Harold Blackwell Summer Research Institute will be led by Profs. Todd Coleman (Stanford), Wilfrid Gangbo (UCLA Math), and Jelani Nelson (UC Berkeley EECS), who will mentor the students directly.

The David Harold Blackwell Summer Research Institute is a six-week competitive summer activity designed to provide research experience to talented undergraduate students. Students will conduct research in Applied Probability, Analysis, or Theoretical Computer Science, under the supervision of faculty members who are experts in these areas. During the program, each participant will:

  • conduct research on one of the UC Campuses under the direction of a faculty member.
  • receive funding for six weeks of lodging, meals and incidentals.
  • receive funding for one round-trip travel to California. Those mentees not in Berkeley will receive additional funding for week 6 travel to Berkeley, to meet with each other.

After the six-week program, each participant will:

  • continue receiving advice from their program mentor for graduate school applications.
  • get connected as needed to students with more experience

Student Mentors

Each student will work directly with a faculty mentor. We expect two students per faculty mentor, allowing for substantial individual attention. A summary of the schedule is as follows:

June 21: Orientation day; Zoom meeting to introduce all the participants to each other; Visit of the campus and its facilities; Assessment of the basic background of the students to determine their level.
June 22 – July 23: Reading, Training and Research work
July 24: Travel to Berkeley
July 26 – July 29: Discussion and information to enter graduate programs. Final presentation of research work.
July 30: Final report from the students (due by 3 pm).

The research projects will be on one of the following themes. Optimal Mass Transportation, the Calculus of Variations, Machine Learning, Theoretical Computer Science.

Our long term goal is to increase the number of talented researchers and teachers in mathematical and computer sciences. With the support of our respective campuses, we would like to ensure that the leading institutions in the state of California increase their participation in training the next generation of students underrepresented in the mathematical sciences. We would like to develop a sense of community where mentees feel welcome in California and an increasing number of mentors receive concrete invitations to participate in changes which transcend group barriers.

We will ask the students to fill out an anonymous evaluation form at the end of the program.

Funding information for student applicants:

  • Up to $600 travel expense per student plus $200 for extra trip to Berkeley
  • Up to $4K housing allowance + $3.6K for living expenses per student.

How to Apply

Eligibility. Applicants must be students enrolled in a U.S. institution. Preference will be given to applicants in the 2nd, 3rd or 4th year. Interested students should apply through https://www.mathprograms.org/db/programs/991 and and should provide transcripts, a statement of purpose, a diversity statement, a CV, and the names and contact information of two faculty members who will provide letters of recommendation. We expect this to be a competitive process. Applications received by January 31, 2021 will be given full consideration.


For any inquiries, please email: