How it works

Quick facts:

  • There is no cost to participate in SUBgroups.
  • SUBgroups is organized for junior mathematicians, by junior mathematicians.
  • Have questions?  Contact us.

What are SUBgroups?

A SUBgroup is a small group of first-year students (3 to 5 members), all from different math graduate programs. The group meets every two weeks by video chat for about an hour through the fall. Topics of conversation will include members’ recent successes and difficulties in grad school as well as tidbits of math they’ve recently encountered. Some norms and some suggestions for how the meetings can run well are shared with participants; see the Handbook. For instance, it’s a norm that everyone will have a turn to talk about whatever recent experiences they choose. The meetings will be run by the participants themselves.

We want all participants to find their SUBgroup to be a supportive peer group. To help make sure that happens, we ask for input from participants about the make-up of their groups. In particular, we help to connect folks who belong to groups that are underrepresented in mathematics.


There are three main goals for these groups and chats. 

share:  One challenge of math graduate school is that it isn’t always easy to share the experiences you’re having. Family and friends may not always “get” these experiences, and you may or may not feel comfortable sharing everything with your new classmates or professors. In your SUBgroup you will be able to share your experiences with people who can relate to beginning a graduate career, but from a little distance. You’ll also have the chance to share about the cool math you’re learning! 

uplift:  One way that the members of your SUBgroup will uplift each other is just by listening to each other. Being heard feels good. You will also cheer each other on, sympathize, commiserate, and offer advice and perspectives. 

bridge: Your SUBgroup will help you to bridge the transition into being a graduate student. It will also help you to bridge into the wider mathematical community beyond your program. You’ll get to know people “virtually” who you may later meet in person at conferences and other events. And finally, you will be helping to bridge the information barrier: different PhD programs are different, and what seems normal at your program might seem wonderful or worrisome to someone else. It’s good for all of us to share best practices and worst pitfalls! 


The goal of SUBgroups is to support junior mathematicians as they begin graduate school, a specific and important transition in their academic careers. As such, we have a focused audience.

Incoming first-year students in math PhD programs are welcome to join SUBgroups; the majority of past participants have been in this category. First-year master’s and post-bacc students who are thinking about continuing on to a PhD are also welcome. Undergraduates are not eligible for SUBgroups currently, and neither are grad students in their second year or beyond.

A majority of past participants have studied pure math, but SUBgroups also includes many students who are studying applied math or statistics, as well as math education graduate students whose program includes graduate-level math classes.

While SUBgroups has a focused audience, we understand that some folks have academic paths and circumstances that are different from the typical. If you’re wondering whether or not SUBgroups is a fit for you, please send the organizers an email:

Most of our past participants have attended graduate schools located in North America. We have also had participants from other institutions around the world, and we do our best to accommodate these students.


The Internet. The meetings will happen over Zoom or Skype or Google Hangouts — whatever works well for your SUBgroup.


There are two starting dates, one in September and one in October. This is to accommodate different starting dates for different semesters and quarters, and it also gives folks who missed the first deadline a second chance to sign up.

Meetings will happen every two weeks, beginning in early September (or October) and going through the start of December. We will help you to coordinate meeting times and dates in your small groups.

How do I sign up?

Here is the Sign Up! page. Just fill out a form and we’ll be in touch soon with all the details.