SIAM Student Chapter at Boulder Convenes Panel of Recent Graduates for Year-end Meeting

July 10, 2008

Graduate chapter adviser Tom Manteuffel (left) presents a SIAM Student Chapter Certificate of Recognition to Christian Ketelsen, outgoing president of the SIAM Graduate Student Chapter at the University of Colorado, Boulder.

Dan Kaslovsky

On Thursday, April 24, the Graduate Student Chapter of SIAM at the University of Colorado, Boulder, gathered for its final meeting of the academic year. The meeting, held jointly with our undergraduate chapter, served as a chance for students at all levels to interact and exchange ideas while enjoying Boulder's finest college sandwich-shop cuisine. Highlighting the theme of peer interaction was a panel discussion led by three recent recipients of advanced degrees: Cecile Piret, PhD, Josh Nolting, PhD, and Kye Taylor, MS. Each panelist, having successfully defended a thesis in the preceding weeks, offered advice, anecdotes, and thoughts about graduate study.

Before the discussion began, we took a moment to honor our outgoing president, Christian Ketelsen. Our faculty adviser, Tom Manteuffel, presented Christian with an appreciation award for his two years of ser-vice to our chapter. In addition to heading CU–Boulder's chapter, Christian organized the Front Range Applied Mathematics Student Conference, held every year in Denver.

Cecile, Josh, and Kye began by describing their backgrounds and areas of research. Especially interesting was learning how each one had settled on his/her respective niche. They described the process of finding an adviser, the transition from classwork to research, the role of summer internships, and the writing of a thesis. Cecile and Kye stressed the importance of choosing an adviser with whom you feel comfortable. Showing an interest in a professor's research, asking for a small project, and enrolling in a faculty member's special-topics courses helped Cecile find an adviser who was a good match. Kye knew he had a good working situation when his adviser told him to ask "stupid questions," as this is the way one learns.

On the daunting task of writing a thesis, Josh suggested that the thesis be viewed as a work in progress. It is when sitting down to write that one discovers new directions in which more research is needed, he said; one never feels as though he/she is truly done, but at some point the writing must take place. As future research leaders ourselves, we should never feel as though our research is complete. Cecile found it helpful to write a report of the progress she made each week. In doing so, she was able to "make a story" out of her research that evolved into her thesis. She joked that this made a "few months of pure hell" a little more palatable.

Recent recipients of graduate degrees from the University of Colorado, Boulder---from left, Kye Taylor, Cecile Piret, and Josh Nolting---mined their experiences to provide wisdom and advice to the university's graduate and undergraduate student chapters of SIAM.

"We work hard and learn more than what is presented to us in class," Kye said, touching on the atmosphere of our graduate community. This meeting served as yet another opportunity for all of us to learn outside the classroom. The successes and failures shared at the meeting leave us with a sense of direction and ambition as we wrap up this year.

Dan Kaslovsky is president of the SIAM Graduate Student Chapter at the University of Colorado, Boulder.

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