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Math 5960 Seminar

1-4 credits; graded Credit/Fail

For each hour of credit, the student will attend a talk and write a brief report on the talk. The talk can be a seminar or colloquium talk in the Department of Mathematics. If the talk is not in the Department of Mathematics (for example, in engineering, physics, biology, economics?), the talk needs to be related to mathematics or be a potential application of mathematics. After attending the talk, the student will turn in a one- or two-page written report addressing the questions raised in the talk, what strategies were used to answer the questions raised in the talk and how the material was presented. The report should also discuss the strengths and weaknesses of the presentation.

Instructions for Reporting on a Talk

These are instructions for reporting on a talk (seminar, colloquium, etc.) that you attended.

The goals of this exercise are:

  • Make sure that you attend talks, and pay attention.
  • Get you to focus on secondary things that you can learn by attending a talk, such as how to approach a research problem or give a talk.

The target length is 450 to 1000 words. This is roughly equivalent to one to two single spaced typewritten pages. You do not need to type your report, but it should be neat, well-organized, and legible. Your report should include the following two elements:

Basic Information

  • Your name and the date the report was written.
  • The course (requirement, etc.) for which you are writing the report.
  • The title and abstract of the talk.
  • The speaker and their affiliation.
  • The venue/host of the talk, e.g. Mathematics Department Colloquium.

What You Learned

There is something to be learned at every talk. Even if you do not understand the contents very well, you can learn about the research process or how to (or not to) give a talk. Here are some things you might touch on:

The Content of the Talk

  • What is the motivation for studying this topic?
  • What was the central result or conclusion?
  • Were there any details that you thought were interesting?

The Research Process

  • What strategies did the speaker use to try to solve their problem?
  • Did the speaker talk about any problems that they could not solve?

The Presentation

  • Did the speaker use chalk, transparencies, slides projected from a computer, movies, or some other delivery method?
  • Was the talk well organized? Did the speaker give a gentle introduction for non-experts? Was the presentation effective? What worked well, and what should be improved?
  • Did the audience pay attention? Did they ask questions during the talk, after the talk, or not at all?