Monday, May 31, 2010

Summer Seminars

Jared Saia at UNM and Machinations is working through Wilf's generatingfunctionology over the summer with his students. He says,
During the summer theory seminar for my research group, I like to cover a topic that is mathematically challenging, but not something that any of us would normally learn about in the course of our day-to-day research
This is a great idea ! Usually, during the semester, I'm in market-driven mode, choosing topics that are more accessible, and are likely to draw a larger audience. But summer is a good time for harder material since you have smaller self-selected group and they're motivated.

Last summer I ran a "why can't we solve P vs NP" seminar with three students - we went through the standard obstacles, and along the way learnt a fair amount of complexity theory - it was a lot of fun. This summer we're doing lattice theory - I have selfish reasons for choosing this topic (some of my recent work needs it), and it's a very accessible (and relevant!) area, while still being nontrivial enough to get students to think.

We considered a number of other topics as well before settling on this one - we might even return to some of them later. They were, in no particular order.
Especially for a summer seminar, it's important to have material that's generally available for free, since students might not want to purchase a book for a topic that's off the beaten track. 
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