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MIT PRIMES: Program Details


MIT PRIMES is a free, year-long program, in which high school students work on individual and group research projects and participate in reading groups under the guidance of academic mentors, usually graduate students or postdoctoral scholars. MIT PRIMES includes three sections:

  • mathematics
  • computer science
  • computational and physical biology

All PRIMES activities are currently conducted remotely. A return to in-person meetings depends on the MIT campus visitor policy. We are preparing for remote operation until visitors are allowed back on campus.


The program operates throughout the calendar year in four distinct phases:

  • Phase I, January 1 - 31:
    Reading period. In early January you will be notified of the admission decision and assigned a research project and a mentor. The mentor will recommend background reading necessary for your project. You will conduct the reading independently in consultation with your mentor.
  • Phase II, February 1 - May 31:
    Active research period. You will work on your project under the guidance of your mentor. You will be expected to spend at least 10 hours per week working on your project. This includes home study and a 1.5-hour weekly meeting with your mentor on the MIT campus. The day/time of your meeting will be chosen to suit both you and your mentor. You will occasionally discuss your project with the MIT faculty member who suggested your project and with the head mentor. At the end of May, you will present the obtained results at a PRIMES conference, which your friends and family members will be welcome to attend.
  • Phase III, June 1 - August 31:
    Independent study period. You will continue working on your project independently, staying in e-mail contact with your mentor. PRIMES does not conflict with any summer programs, since it has a flexible schedule in the summer.
  • Phase IV, September 1 - December 31:
    Write-up period. You will meet with your mentor as needed and stay in regular e-mail contact. With the help of your mentor, you will finalize your project and write a final paper summarizing your results. This paper may be submitted to national science competitions for high school students and/or sent to professional research journals for publication.

Reading groups

The Math section includes a research track and a reading group track.

Participation in the research track will require very advanced mathematical background. Participation in a reading group would serve as an excellent preparation for future research at PRIMES and beyond.

Reading mathematical literature is a vital part of professional life of any mathematician. It is of key importance at all ages, but especially so for students. For many students, guided reading proves more intellectually stimulating and beneficial than an immediate plunge into research. Devoting your first year at PRIMES to guided reading would build a solid foundation for attacking a challenging research problem the following year.

A PRIMES reading group is a pair of high school students who actively study an advanced mathematical book under the guidance of a mentor, with whom they meet weekly at MIT (for about 2 hours) in the spring and fall semesters. In between meetings, they read assigned chapters, solve homework problems, and discuss the material with each other and with the mentor by e-mail or skype. In December, they make presentations on the material they have studied.

Reading groups study advanced books, usually assigned to advanced undergraduates and graduate students, such as:

Adams, The Knot Book
Alekseev, Abel's Theorem in Problems & Solutions
Alon and Spencer, The Probabilistic Method
Apostol, Introduction to Analytic Number Theory
Cox, Primes of the form x^2+ny^2
Davenport, The Higher Arithmetic
Etingof, Introduction to Representation Theory
Gallian, Contemporary Abstract Algebra
Graham, Knuth and Patashnik, Concrete Mathematics
Herstein, Topics in Algebra
Hoffstein, Pipher and Silverman, An introduction to mathematical cryptography
Iwaniec and Kowalski, Analytic Number Theory
Lang, Algebra
Niven, Zuckerman, and Montgomery, An Introduction to the Theory of Numbers
O'Donnell, Analysis of Boolean Functions
Rotman, An Introduction to the Theory of Groups
Silverman, A Friendly Introduction to Number Theory
Silverman and Tate, Rational Points on Elliptic Curves
Stanley, Enumerative Combinatorics
Stillwell, Geometry of Surfaces
Strogatz, Nonlinear Dynamics And Chaos

The reading group track is highly recommended for students who are just entering PRIMES (especially younger students - freshmen and sophomores). It is also highly recommended for seniors, who would be in PRIMES for only half a year before going to college.

When we consider applications, we may decide that a student needs more background before s/he can work on a research project. In this case, we might admit this applicant to the reading group track, if s/he has applied for it. This is why we encourage you to apply to the reading group track, whether or not you also apply to the research track.


PRIMES is a free program. The students are selected on the basis of their demonstrated extraordinary mathematical ability, potential for conducting original research or advanced reading, and self-motivation for independent study. A small number of candidates is admitted, and a very advanced background is expected. For details, see How to Apply to MIT PRIMES.

Academic Integrity Rules

PRIMES expects its participants to adhere to MIT rules and standards for honesty and integrity in academic studies. As a result, any cases of plagiarism, unauthorized collaboration, cheating, or facilitating academic dishonesty during the application process or during the work at PRIMES may result in immediate disqualification from the program, in the sole discretion of PRIMES. In addition, PRIMES reserves the right to notify a participant's parents, schools, and/or recommenders in the event it determines that a participant did not adhere to these expectations. For explanation of these expectations, see What is Academic Integrity?


With questions, contact PRIMES Program Director Dr. Slava Gerovitch at