Berkeley Connect in Mathematics

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

Would 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 Ken Ribet & Nikhil Srivastava
Faculty Directors, 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 studentsThey 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 discussion session. 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 meet with your mentor one-on-one at least twice during the semester, to talk about anything you choose related to your academic life—questions you have, challenges you are facing, resources you are seeking, goals you are seeking to achieve. Your mentor will also hold open mentoring hours throughout the semester, during which you are free to show up and continue these conversations, or just check in.


Ken Ribet

Kenneth Ribet is a Professor of Mathematics who served as President of the American Mathematical Society from 2017 to 2019. Ribet studied at Brown University and Harvard University. He received his PhD in 1973 from Harvard, where his advisor was John Tate. After three years of teaching in Princeton and two years of research in Paris, Ribet joined the Berkeley faculty in 1978. Ribet works in number theory and algebraic geometry. He is best known for his proof that Fermat's Last Theorem would follow logically from the modularity conjecture, then a well-known unproved conjecture about elliptic curves. When Andrew Wiles obtained cases of this conjecture in 1995, Wiles obtained Fermat's Last Theorem as a corollary because of Ribet's prior work. Ribet is a member of the editorial boards of numerous book series and research journals. He was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 1997 and the US National Academy of Sciences in 2000. He was awarded the Fermat Prize in 1989 and received an honorary PhD from Brown University in 1998. He received the Brouwer medal from the Royal Dutch Mathematical Society (KWG) in 2017. Ribet was inducted as a Vigneron d'honneur by the Jurade de Saint Emilion in 1988. He received his department's Distinguished Teaching Award in 1985 and again in 2013.

Nikhil SrivastavaNikhil Srivastava is an Associate Professor of Mathematics. He was born in New Delhi and grew up traveling around the world with diplomat parents. He attended Union College where he majored in mathematics and computer science, with a minor in English, and then obtained his PhD in theoretical computer science at Yale in 2010, advised by Daniel Spielman. After postdocs at the Institute for Advanced Study, Princeton, and MSRI, he worked at Microsoft Research in India for a few years before coming to Berkeley in 2015. In his research he uses concepts from linear algebra, such as eigenvalues and eigenvectors, to study discrete objects such as graphs (and vice versa). Lately, he has worked on developing provably efficient algorithms for computing the eigenvalues and eigenvectors of large matrices, which turns out to involve tools from random matrix theory. He believes there are a lot of interesting connections between pure and applied math and likes to find them. Nikhil usually teaches Math 54 and 55 at Berkeley and has co-directed Berkeley Connect since 2017. He is a co-recipient of the SIAM Polya Prize, the NAS Held Prize, and the AMS Foias Prize. Apart from math, he enjoys cycling, table tennis, and electronic music.

Berkeley Connect Mentors

Thomas Browning is a PhD candidate in Math.Thomas Browning

Where did you grow up?

Seattle, Washington

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

University of Washington, Mathematics

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

I study abstract algebraic structures to help get a better understanding of numbers.

Ethan DlugieEthan Dlugie is a PhD candidate in Math.

Where did you grow up?

Chicago suburbs

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

Northwestern University, math major

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

I study braids; really, as in you take some pieces of string and braid them together. I think about the mathematical structure that comes about when you combine braids in different ways and how we can study that structure with various mathematical tools.

Rebecca WhitmanRebecca Whitman is a PhD candidate in Math.

Where did you grow up?

Redwood City, CA

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

Wellesley College, Mathematics and Music

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

My research is in graph theory, which is the study of networks and their structure. I specifically work on graph characterization problems, where I identify multiple ways to describe the same sets of graphs.

Semester Activities

During a semester in Berkeley Connect in Math, you will participate in one-on-one conversations with your mentor, small-group discussions, special events and field trips.

Recent discussion topics have included:

  • Reading and writing math
  • Math in art and media
  • Mathematical paradoxes
  • Math and society

Berkeley Connect discussion sessions are informal and interactive, with time allowed for students to check in, talk about their experiences on campus, and reflect on current events that create the context for their academic studies.

Recent special events and field trips have included:

  • Panel: Considering Graduate Studies in Math
  • Alumni Career Panel: What Can You Do with a Degree in Math?
  • Guided tour of Bancroft Library Collection

How to Sign Up

To sign up, enroll in a Berkeley Connect section when course registration opens.  To participate in Berkeley Connect in Math, you enroll in a section of Math 98BC (primarily for freshmen and sophomores) or 198BC (primarily for juniors and seniors). Both are offered for one unit, taken on a Pass/Not Pass basis. Participation is NOT restricted to declared majors.

You may enroll in Berkeley Connect more than once (some students choose to participate for a full year by enrolling in both the fall and spring semesters), and you may enroll through more than one department. You may NOT enroll in more than two sections of Berkeley Connect in one semester, or enroll in more than one section in the same department in the same semester.

Contact Us

Please see our FAQs.  If you have additional questions about Berkeley Connect in Math, please contact:  Faculty Directors Kenneth Ribet,

or Nikhil Srivastava,

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

Links & Resources