Math Graduate Student Resources Page

Events Orals FAQ Student Forum Finishing Students

Frequently Asked Questions List

This document was created in response to discussions about Courant being a fairly big place and taking some time to get used to. It's intended to provide extra information to incoming math graduate students but may be helpful for others as well. There's answers to questions that both Masters and PhD students may have, but some parts pertain only to one group or the other.

This document was last updated on July 26, 2016. Questions, comments or suggestions concerning the FAQ should be directed to Monty Essid, Michael Lewis in Room 507, Room 504 at essid, mjlewis (at) cims .

Table of Contents

Important People in the Department

Incoming Students

Courses and Registration

Written Exams

Oral Exams



Teaching Assignments






Photocopying/Faxing/Office Supplies


Building Concerns

Employee Meal Plan

Fun Stuff

Important People in the Department

Q: Who are the people in the department that can help me out the most?

A: Graduate students can see Melissa Kushner Vacca, the graduate programs manager in room 622 with any questions. In addition, PhD students, Math MS and Scientific Computing MS students can see the program administrator in 623 and Math Finance MS students can see Michelle Shin in 624.

The math department administrative offices are on the 6th floor of the Courant Institute and if you can't find the administrator you are looking for, look for another open door – all the administrators are very helpful!

For the list of Mathematics department staff, please Click Here.

Incoming Students

Q: When should I arrive in the city?

A: The rule of thumb should be earlier the better since the start of the school year is always busy and possibly unfamiliar to those first coming to New York City. The earlier one gets here the more time they have to accumulate to the area.

The Graduate School of Arts and Science (GSAS) offers masters and PhD who are newly admitted an orientation. For information when those orientations are and to RSVP for it, please Click Here.

Q: When I first arrive to New York University and the department, who should I go see?

A: Stop by the 6th floor and meet with the Program Administrator of your program!

For MS in Math, Scientific Computing and PhD, please see the program administrator in room 623.

For Mathematics in Finance students, please come see Michelle Shin in room 624.

Q: Are there any orientation sessions at the beginning of the year?

A. Yes! Besides the orientation session by the Graduate School of Arts and Science (GSAS) your program will have an orientation event for incoming students. Incoming students should have been notified about these events by the department. If you're not sure, please contact Melissa Kushner Vacca ( to find out about any upcoming orientations or events in the department.

Besides orientation events there are welcome receptions and other events that students are welcome to take full advantage of.

Please see below for a list of some possible Courant orientation and events:

  • Courant Institute Welcome Reception for incoming PhD students and Visiting Members
  • Orientation for incoming PhD students
  • Orientation for incoming MS and non-degree students
  • Orientation for incoming Mathematics in Finance students
  • Mathematics in Finance Pre-term course for incoming full-time students
  • Office of Global Services (OGS) orientation sessions
  • Mathematics in Finance beginning of semester party
  • Welcome reception for graduate students

Courses and Registration

Q: Where can I find a list of courses being offered by the department?

A: For a list of courses offered by the Mathematics department, please go to this website.

Q: How do I register for courses?

A: Students should log into Albert through NYU Home. Once students login to NYU Home with their Net ID and password, you will click on the ''Academics'' tab where on the left–hand side you can ''Student Login''.

Once in Albert, registering for courses should be fairly self-explanatory. For more information about registering for classes you can go to Click Here. For the complete Albert Registration help guide, please Click Here.

Q: When can I register for my classes?

A: Depending on the semester will depend when students can start registering. For the registration calendar, please Click Here. This calendar will provide important registration information such as when registration opens each semester, add/drop deadlines and etc.

Q: What if I have questions about registration? Where or who can I see to get my questions answered?

A: Students can see the departmental administrators with general registration or advising questions.

If students have specific academics questions about courses you can also speak with faculty and the DGS of the program. The first week of classes there will be faculty available to advise any students about courses. To see which faculty is available when, that schedule will be posted on our website and emailed to all the incoming students.

In general, if you're not sure if you should take a class or you have questions, please contact the department first!

Q: For PhD students, is registration different once I'm past my oral exams?

A: Once a PhD student has passed their orals the number of courses they are allowed to take can vary from person to person and from semester to semester; therefore, it is a good idea to check with your advisor or department administrator.

Q: For PhD students, what's the department's policy on special topics courses and PhD research classes?

A: PhD students will need to complete 72 points of credit. This should be comprised of mainly ''regular'' courses and special topics classes. Students are only allowed to take a maximum of 4 PhD research courses.

Q: For PhD students, how many credits of coursework must I have to finish my degree?

A: In order for a PhD student to graduate, they must have completed 72 credits, which means 24 courses since courses are three (3) points each. To maintain full-time status before you finish your 72 you must be enrolled for 12 credits each semester, or be enrolled for 9 credits and get full-time equivalency from the department. Once you complete 72 credits you will not be allowed to enroll for more, but if not you'll end up enrolling for maintenance of matriculation. It's good to talk to Melissa or the program administrator about this sometime towards the end of your third year or beginning of your fourth so you don't end up taking too many credits and getting into a mess with the registrar.

Q: For PhD students, can I register for more than 12 credits in a semester?

A: If you are funded by MacCracken, do not register for more than 12 credits (the funding does not cover more). You are free to sit in on any classes you want, however with permission of the course instructor.

Written Exams

Q: Where can I find out more about the Written Comprehensive Examinations?

A: Through the math department's website by going to Click Here.

In order to sign up for the written exams, please contact the program administrator.

Q: What's a good way to study for the written exams?

A: Do lots of practice problems! There's absolutely nothing better that you can do. The Mathematics department maintains a book of old exams, please come by room 606 for a copy of the old exams and try and do every last problem. Another good study source is the book Berkeley Problems in Mathematics. And try to study with other people too, it makes the experience that much more bearable.

The department also offers a written exams workshop each semester. You can see the schedule for the exact time and location.

Q: Where can I find written-up solutions of old exam problems?

A: A Wiki was started by Evan Chou in the summer 2009. The Wiki is a place where students can share worked-out solutions to old exam problems.

Oral Exams

Q: Who has to take the Oral Exams?

A: All math PhD students near the end their 2nd year of full-time study.

Q: Where can I find more info on the Oral Exams?

A: The best and most official source is on the department webpage, Click Here.

Q: Is there a list of questions that have been previously asked on the orals?

A: Yes, for previously asked questions, please go to Orals Previously Asked Question List webpage. Students will be able to find many of the questions that have been asked in the past. Everything has been moved to the wiki, and a link is there. On the wiki there are some submitted orals transcripts as well, which you can feel free to contribute to give others an idea of what the atmosphere is like / question flow.

Q: How do I sign up to take the oral exams?

A: To sign up for oral exams, please see Melissa in room 622.

Q:What's a good way to study for the oral exams?

There's a number of things you can do, beyond the simplest answer of just studying your butt off. One can try the following:

  • Get together with other students and practice quizzing each other
  • Go over the list of Previously Asked Questions to get an idea of the typical questions that are asked
  • Three or four weeks beforehand ask faculty to practice with a group of students. Most will be glad to do so
  • Hold practice sessions with your advisor
  • Relax a little bit beforehand. Freaking out over these exams isn't going to help.

And remember that your examiners usually like to keep things simple. They are not out to get you in any way.


Q: Where is the CIMS library?

A: The library is located on the 12th floor of Warren Weaver Hall.

Q: Where can I find more information on the CIMS library?

A: A good source is the library webpage. Here you can find information about the library's hours, what new books arrived, and a list of journals the department subscribes to, and among other things.

Q: Can I drop off books after hours?

A: Yes, there is a drop-off box located on the 12th floor once you get off the elevators.


Q: Who can teach recitations and how can I apply?

A: All graduate students are eligible to apply for teaching and grading positions in our department. Melissa will send out a google docs survey for your teaching interests before the semester starts. Be sure to sign in using your NYU gmail account.

Q: Where can I get a textbook for the course I'm TAing/teaching?

A: You can see Joan Randolph in Room 627; where you can sign out a copy of the book from her. The book will need to be returned at the end of the semester.

Q: Where can I get supplies (i.e: chalk, blue book, and etc.) for my recitations?

A: You can go to the 8th floor to room 815 and see Michael Laguerre.

Q: Who can I turn to if I have questions about teaching and grading?

A: Sue Taylor in room 618 and Melissa Kushner Vacca in room 622. Beth Markowitz is the manager of the undergraduate program and is in room 626, she can help too!

Q: How can I get someone to evaluate my teaching skills for me?

A: There are orientation sessions held by the department at the start of each semester for new recitation leaders. If you are new to teaching in the department, you will be invited to this session via email. If you just want to brush up on your skills, hear some general advice and do some mock teaching but have taught before, you can of course attend!

The department circulates course evaluations each semester. If you would like to see a copy of yours from a previous semester, please see Joan Randolph in room 627 to get a copy.

NYU's Center for Teaching Excellence offers exactly this service. Give them a few weeks notice and they'll arrange for one of their helpful staff to come observe your recitation or course and offer constructive criticism afterwards. They can also videotape the lecture so you can watch your own performance and survey your students to find out what they like and dislike about your teaching methods. See their website for more information. For the past few years the department has required that all first-year instructors contact the CTE for a teaching evaluation.

Q: Is it possible to reserve classroom space in Warren Weaver Hall?

A: Yes, just visit the CIMS Classroom Calendar to view the schedule for each of the classrooms. Once you've found a time slot and location you like, you can request a reservation using the classroom calendar, or send an e-mail to

Q: What should I do if I have to miss class one day?

A: Arrange for someone else to cover the class for you. In the event of an emergency call Sue, Beth or Melissa.

Q: How do I know if classes have been cancelled due to inclement weather or other emergencies?

A: This information is available here.

Teaching Assignments

Q: Who's responsible for coming up with the teaching assignments?

A: Sue Taylor in 618 and Melissa Vacca in 622. If there's a course you'd really like to teach you can talk to one of them nicely and they'll do what they can to accomodate you.

Q: When are teaching assignments made?

A: Usually the assignments are drawn up months in advance so students are given ample opportunity to request changes. Finalized assignments aren't made until just before the term starts.

Q: How do I know which classroom I'm teaching in?

A: You check the room assignment online through Albert, as sometimes NYU switches rooms without notifying the department. You can also check with Sue, Melissa or Beth.

Q: Where can I get a list of the students in my class?

A: You can get a list of students in your class from ALBERT's Faculty Center. Alternatively, you can use NYU Classes which allows you to set up a course homepage for the recitation/course you're teaching. It provides a constantly updated student list, including all of their e-mail addresses. There's many other features and tools available that make the whole system quite useful for managing a course.


Q: What can I do in the summer?

A: Whatever you want! Some of the more standard opportunities include:

  • Doing research under the direction of your advisor,
  • Seeking an internship at a government lab;
  • Getting an internship with one of the city's financial institutions
  • There are a limited number of teaching positions available through the department. The department will ask who's interested in March,
  • Just relax!

Q: How can I get access to the NYU gyms in summer?

A: There is a $45 summer membership fee for the gym. This fee is waived by the university for:

  1. any student in a degree-granting program who is registered for any coursework (one point or more) in summer.
  2. any student who is a resident of NYU sponsored summer housing (considered long-term summer).

Since the membership charge is a student services fee, GSAS will reimburse the fee for any other GSAS student who does not meet one of the waiver conditions AND who received a registration and services fee award as part of his or her GSAS financial aid package in the 2015-16 academic year (i.e., a current MacCracken-supported student, a current fully-funded student from a different source of GSAS funds). GSAS will not reimburse any other fees charged by the gym, such as fees for a locker, towels or recreation classes. In order to receive the reimbursement, the student must pay the membership fee at the Gym Membership Office.

The student will be given a receipt that shows his or her name and the amount of membership fee paid. The student should write his or her department and UID number on the receipt and bring it to Graduate Enrollment Services (GES) by NO LATER THAN MONDAY, JULY 11 or give to the Department admins to take care of. The student should keep a copy of the receipt for his or her records. By no later than the end of August, GES will arrange for the reimbursement to be applied to the student's account at the Bursar's Office. If the student is eligible for a refund (i.e., there are no outstanding charges on the Bursar's account), the Bursar will provide a refund to the student.


Q: Who should supported students see about payroll matters?

A: You can go see Human Resources either Karen Micallef in Room 806 or Stephanie Lo in Room 804 or go to the website where they maintain payroll info. It's available here, but you have to be on a CIMS machine to view the page.

Q: Where can I pick up my paychecks from?

A: Paychecks are automatically deposited in your bank account. Payslips are posted in 'PeopleSync' (Work tab in NYU Home). To find out where exactly see Karen Micallef in Room 806 or check the payroll webpage.

Q: As an international student can I get a Social Security Number? If so where do I get it from?

A: Your best source for this information is the Office of Global Services. However the rough answer is yes if you're allowed to legally work in the United States (for most people this means you're paid by NYU). A math department administrator can prepare a letter for you to bring to OGS and they will then issue you a letter certifying that you're entitled to work, and you take this and your passport to a Social Security office where they'll process your application. You won't get the number that day but they'll give you a receipt which banks and NYU will accept as proof that you've applied. A hint for people living in Stuyvesant Town: there's a Social Security office on East 12th Street between Avenues B and C.


Q: What's the best source of information about computing at CIMS?

A: Luckily we're blessed with an excellent webpage that details everything you'd ever need to know about our computers. The Computing Resources at Courant page is maintained by Andy Howell and his crack team on the 10th floor. Using this source you should be able to solve all your computer problems. To prevent unnecessary duplication this document will deal with computing issues only in a very limited manner.

Q: How do I get a username and password to get on the computers at Courant?

A: You will receive the information from the CIMS helpdesk via email. If you’re not sure, stop by their office on the 10th floor.

Q: How can I change my password?

A: Login to one of the SUN machines, open a terminal window and type in "passwd". You'll be prompted to type your old password once and your new password twice.

Q: Can I do remote logins and file transfers from machines outside of the Institute?

A: Yes, but you must have a secure program to do this. The Secure Network Access page has a list of many of these free programs that are available for download.

Q: Can I hook my own laptop/tablet/phone up to the CIMS network?

A: Yes, anyone with an NYU NetID can do this but you have to apply for access with NYU's Information Technology Services. See the section entitled DCHP Wired Access on the Network Access page for further help.

Q: Is there wireless access in the building?

A: Yes. See the Network Access page on the Computing Resources at Courant site for more info.

Q: Where are computer labs in the building?

A: See here.

Q: Does the university have other computer labs I can use?

A: As a matter of fact it does. The nearest ones are in the basement of Tisch Hall and another at 14 Washington Place. They're Windows and Mac platforms and contain some software not available at CIMS. The ITS Labs Directory has a list of all the available labs. Information Technology Services' website has excellent information on computing issues relating to your NYU NetID.

Q: Does the university have a scanner?

A: Yes, the majority of the floors have a multifunction printer. You can copy, scan and send scanned documents by email using your CIMS login and password.


Q: How do I get a CIMS e-mail address?

A: It comes with a computer account. You will receive the information from the CIMS helpdesk via email. If you’re not sure, stop by their office on the 10th floor.

Q: Is it important that I check my CIMS e-mail?

A: Crucially so. All official CIMS correspondence, including course announcements, seminar dates, teaching schedules, and information on important meetings will be sent to your CIMS address. If you don't want to use your CIMS e-mail you should at least have it forwarded to another account that you do use. It's your responsibility to do so.

Q: What if I don't like the name of my CIMS address?

A: All CIMS accounts are automatically given an e-mail alias of the form "" which you can alternatively use. To find out exactly what your first name and last name for this address is, just type the "finger" command into a terminal window and the information will be displayed. If you really don't like the name of your CIMS e-mail address you can e-mail helpdesk@cims and they may change it for you.

Q: What's a good program for accessing my e-mail?

A: On the SUN machines Mutt, Pine and Elm are good choices. However your best source for finding this out is at the CIMS Computing Resources page. For e-mail access away from the Institute you can remotely login using a secure shell, or there's webmail available at

Q: Is there a way I can send out mass e-mails to entire groups of CIMS people?

A: There are e-mail addresses you can write to that forward your message to everyone at CIMS, or just students at CIMS (includes masters, non-degree, graduate students), or just mathdoc at CIMS (includes Phd students only). Before using these addresses be reasonably sure that a relatively large number of people actually want to hear what you have to say.

Q: What other e-mail addresses do I have?

A: All students are given a separate "" e-mail account. The address is your NetID which can be found on your ID card. It's activated by going through NYUHome. This address is where e-mail from higher ups like the president and deans is usually sent, along with library notices and the like. This e-mail can also be forwarded to another account if you like.


Q: Who's in charge of mail services?

A: Michael Laguerre in Room 815 is in charge of the mail services. He would be the person you could see about incoming and outgoing packages.

Q: How do I get a mailbox?

A: PhD students get mailboxes on the first floor lobby behind the security desk. They should be arranged alphabetically by last name.

Q: How does the interoffice mail work?

A: NYU mail services can deliver papers for you around the entire university. The interoffice mail envelopes are available from Michael Laguerre in Room 815, and if extra ones start to pile up in your office he appreciates them being returned. The drop-off box for interoffice mail is right past the mailboxes on in the lobby on the Mercer Street entrance to the building.

Q: Can I have UPS/FedEx/DHL packages delivered to the Institute?

A: Yes. Michael Laguerre will sign for the package coming to Courant and will be stored in room 815. A delivery notification slip will be placed in your mailbox and you can then pick up the package. Please do so as soon as possible to help keep Michael's office uncluttered. Also, when having packages sent to the building tells the shipper your office number so Larry can be sure of the intended recipient.

If you have something especially important coming in it's a good idea to notify Michael of it beforehand to reduce the chance of it being lost. Finally, keeping your contact info up to date in the directory ensures the successful delivery of most packages.

Q: What should I do if I want to send out packages?

A: It might be a good idea to see Michael Laguerre in room 815 first, especially if the package is intended for overseas and requires customs tags, or is heavy (over one pound).

Q: What should I do about my mail if I'm going to be away?

A: Please arrange for somebody else to pick it up from your mailbox and store it for you.

Q: Is my mail safe downstairs?

A: Relatively so, but in the past things have gone missing from the mailboxes so try to retrieve your mail as frequently as possible.

Q: Is there a US Mail drop-off in the building?

A: No. You can find the closes US mailbox by going to Click Here. Here is a list of some close by:

  • On Broadway between W 3rd and W 4th Street
  • Broadway &nsbp; Bond NE (670 Broadway)
  • Washington Square S and Washington Square E

Photocopying/Faxing/Office Supplies

Q: Where can I find a photocopier?

A: Photocopying for CIMS related purposes can be done free of charge throughout the building. Each floor should have a basic copy machine. Some are in the open whereas others are behind locked doors, and some require a copy code. Other students are the best source of info for finding the machines. For more complicated jobs see Michael Laguerre in Room 815. Just try to give him 24 hours advance notice of what you will need done by filling out the "Job Request" slips that are in his office.

Q: What should I do if a photocopier requires toner, paper or servicing?

A: Notify Michael Laguerre as soon as possible. This way he can have the machines ready to go for the off-hours.

Q: Where is there a fax machine I can use?

A: Faxing for CIMS related purposes can be done by Michael Laguerre in Room 815. For personal faxes there are a number of private businesses around that offer the service; for example there's Unique Copy Center on Greene Street and Waverly Place.

Q: Where can incoming faxes be sent to?

A: Your best bet is to send them to Michael Laguerre in Room 815. The extension is 5-4121. Please make sure the intended recipient is clearly labelled so Michael can deliver the message to the correct person.

Q: Where can I find office supplies like stationery or envelopes?

A: Stationery and envelopes with the Courant letterhead and address can be obtained from Michael Laguerre in Room 815. These materials should only be used for official CIMS business.


Q: What can I do if I'm locked out of my office?

A: During the weekdays there's a floor secretary available for each floor that can let you in. A list of them is available in the CIMS directory.

During off hours the guard downstairs will be able to let you in, but first they'll want to make sure you belong in that office. Hence there is an importance in keeping your contact info updated in the directory.

Q: What should I do if I lose my office keys?

A: See Michael Laguerre in room 815, he will get you a new set.

Q: How the hell do I close the window in my office?

A: The floor secretaries have giant suction cup devices that latch onto the window and make it very easy to pull them shut. The guard downstairs should also have one for off-hours use. It's been proposed, but never tested, that with four of these suction cups one could scale the outside of the building much like Spider-Man.

Q: What's the deal with the old and uncomfortable furniture in my office?

A: If you have a particularly bad chair that you would like replaced, talk to Hillary Sachar by contacting her at either or (212) 992-7701.

Q: Is theft from offices a problem?

A: For the most part it's not, but things have been known to go missing. It is a good idea to keep your door locked when nobody is in the office.

Q: In the event of an emergency can 911 be reached from my office?

A: Yes, but you have to dial 9 first to get an outside line.

Building Concerns

Q: How do I find somebody's phone number or e-mail address?

A: Look it up in the CIMS directory.

Q: Is it possible to reserve lounge/classroom space in the building?

A: Yes, just visit the CIMS Classroom Calendar to view the schedule for each of the classrooms. Once you've found a time slot and location you like, you can request a reservation using the classroom calendar, or send an e-mail to

Q: To whom should I report needed repairs such as leaky faucets, burnt-out light bulbs, etc.?

A: Call the building office at extension 8-1001, or Hillary Sachar by contacting her at either or (212) 992-7701. You can also fill out a work order request here:

Q: Where's a good place to hang out in the building?

A: The 13th floor lounge of course! It's a great place to have lunch, do homework, grade exams, nap on the couches or get something to eat. The snack bar is open on weekdays until 4:30, and there's filtered water, hot water and a microwave available. In addition to this and sweeping views of the city the lounge also offers a piano for the musically inclined, which can be used to keep students in the 1302 classroom awake.

Employee Meal Plan

Q: Is there an on-campus meal plan to take advantage of as a graduate student?

A: Yes, and there is a nice discount for the meal plan. It can be used in any of the many dining halls on campus (information here). To sign up go here. Take care to note that 'dining dollars' is not the same thing as 'campus cash' and can only be used in certain locations (for instance, the on-campus Starbucks).

Fun Stuff

Q: Is fun allowed in the math department?

A: Of course! It's an extremely fun place to be, and quite frankly if you're not having fun you're working too damn hard.

Q: How exactly is the department fun?

A: First of all it's a very relaxed atmosphere. No one takes themselves too seriously and everyone is very friendly. As much as the students are committed to their studies they also like kick back and enjoy life. Some specific examples of fun activities include:

  • A weekly Happy Hour at one of the neighborhood's drinking establishments
  • In December a holiday party in the 13th floor lounge with good food
  • Breakfast Club featuring free bagels and light conversation
  • Music at CIMS in the 13th floor lounge

Of course all this fun doesn't organize itself. It requires a constant supply of steadfast volunteers to keep it going. So when the call goes out for help with these activities consider lending a hand. Or, if you have ideas for other events that might be fun take the initiative and organize them yourselves.

Q: How do I find out about all this fun?

A: The best way is by word of mouth. Announcements are sometimes posted around the building too. Another good source is the fun-at-cims mailing list, which keeps students informed about various events and gives them the opportunity to find others with similar interests. In the past it's been used to organize athletics teams, music outings, chess tournaments, etc. Join up and you can have the fun delivered right to your e-mail address!

Q: This town is fun but also expensive. Is there a way that poor students can entertain themselves cheaply?

A: As a matter of fact there is! NYU Ticket Central is the university's clearinghouse for discounted tickets to a wide variety of attractions. Anyone with a valid NYU ID can take advantage of this service and enjoy the best the city has to offer at reduced rates. Tickets are made available for Broadway shows, baseball games, Philharmonic concerts, etc., and they also have sell vouchers for cheap movies, Double Decker Bus Tours and the CityPass. They also have a comprehensive listing of free events throughout the city. The best way to stay informed of their fantastic deals is to join the mailing list by sending a blank e-mail to

Outside of NYU there are many other excellent sources:

  • Village Voice, a free weekly publication available at newsboxes everywhere,
  • Time Out New York, a weekly magazine listing events throughout the city,
  • New York Times has all the news that fits to print, including city happenings.

Q: Where around CIMS is a good place to see a movie?

A: There's theaters all around. There's one in Union Square, another on Third Avenue and 11th Street, independent films three blocks south of Courant at the Angelika Film Center on Mercer and Houston, and much more. Vouchers for cheap tickets can be purchased at NYU Ticket Central. NYU's own Cantor Film Center on East 8th Street and University Place also offers cheap flicks.