I am currently an undergraduate student majoring in Applied Math. I have been reading recent papers published by two of my professors who I admire and I'm wondering what it would be like to conduct research with them. In what ways can an undergraduate student contribute to mathematical research? In what ways could I prepare myself to conduct mathematical research?
To be more specific, my academic background is in History and Social Sciences which I studied intensely from High School through my first two years in college. I conducted research at University of Arizona my junior year of high school analyzing a large set of longitudinal data on a group of high schools in NYC. My interest in math, specifically applied math, started when I took a Computer Science class because I was curious. Since then, I've taken calculus courses, applied combinatorics, probability courses, and I'm currently enrolled in a computational geometry course and an operations research course. The reason I'm interested in pursuing undergraduate mathematical research is because I enjoyed the experience a lot when I was studying social sciences. My concern is that I don't have a strong enough background to contribute to the research my professors currently conduct. I get good grades in my classes, but I'm concerned with my lack of background for a Junior in an applied math major. Recent publications from my professors are difficult for me to understand, so I'm questioning whether I'm ready to conduct research with them. I'm hoping you may be able to offer insight into whether my background is sufficient for conducting research and how I may be able to strengthen my skills. I take my school work seriously and think I have a good understanding of the material I'm taught. Thank you for your time.