It’s the second week of school, but with a bank holiday last Monday (09/12/11), graduate school started up slowly. It will take until next week until everyone is finally registered to all of their classes. It took me a while to do so as well, because they changed up the system from a program that you installed on your computer to an online version. The online version is better, but you need to know where to go. I finally registered to my classes last Tuesday. I have three this semester:
Topics in Geometric Analysis: This class is with my thesis advisor and we will be exploring gradient flows in metric spaces. We will be using Luigi Ambrosio’s book of the same title. It promises to be an interesting class. Although, it’s not exactly what I’d like to do in my thesis, it’s getting there. I’d like more measure theory, but luckily, my advisor is doing research in the field. There are six students in the class, but only 4 were registered on Monday. I don’t know if the other two will be registering, my guess is yes. Two of my classmates are the other graduate students of my advisor. We are all going to a workshop in Hsinchu in Differential Geometry on Saturday. Since I work most Saturdays, it’s not really a problem getting up. It will be a break from the norm, and I have a keen interest in Differential Geometry.
One of the main things that graduate students need to cope with in the sciences is giving lectures. For some, they give lectures to undergrads. Others give lectures in their classes. In my case, since I am not fluent in Mandarin, I can’t serve as TA, which is what most of my classmates have to do. However, in both of my classes, we have to give lectures. This is very different from giving a 30 min to 1h presentation. Students have to assimilate new subject matter and present it to the class, while the prof is watching. In both of my classes⁴, there aren’t that many students³.
This can be quite challenging because you need to prepare fully before you give a 3h lecture. While you give the lecture, the prof will ask you questions about the new topics and proofs, to see if you have understood it. He/She will ask to see if the other students have understood as well. In my case, in my Commutative Algebra class, most, if not all, of the explanations are in Mandarin, but I usually get what’s being explained since I tend to prepare the topics even when I don’t have to give the lecture.
Good article in the New Yorker about education and what it means to society. If college is a 4-year IQ test, then what’s grad school, especially in abstract disciplines like pure mathematics? I wonder. I fully appreciate being a graduate student in math. It makes your brain work in funny ways, and I like it.
[…] that the two most crucial ingredients in the mysterious mix that makes a good writer may be (1) having read enough throughout a lifetime to have internalized the rhythms of the written word, and (2) refining the ability to mimic those rhythms.
Professor X quoted in the New Yorker
This year, the graduate class format changed dramatically for me. I went from a normal class, filled with students, to classes with at the most 4 students and a professor. Actually, my Complex Analysis II class has only another student enrolled. As such, the format has changed. The professors no longer give 3h-lectures, the students do, each in turn.
Basically, each graduate student will prepare a 3h-lecture¹. In one class, that means that I lecture every 4 weeks. In another, it’s every other week². Preparing the lecture involves going over the textbook and the proofs. Depending on how detailed the proofs are, you’ll need to flesh them out further, and make them understandable, citing the right theorems, propositions, etc. Depending on what book/resources you are using, this might take quite a few hours. It also depends on the overall complexity of the class and the overall sparseness of the authors of the book. Atiyah’s books is very sparse. The proofs are sometimes quite short and they need to be expanded significantly.
It’s good to be back at school. I missed most of last week because I was teaching 30 hours. I didn’t miss much³, but I felt terrible. In the future, I won’t want to miss any school at all. My classmates were actually worried about me, which was kind of nice.
It’s strange that I was actually researching paracompact topological spaces on Sunday and that we are seeing those types of spaces in my complex analysis class. We just started the Berenstein & Gay Complex Variables¹ book and things are pretty interesting. I actually deduced that we were heading there because of some of the concepts that we are seeing.