WMC REU: Stalking the Theorem

We’re pretty close to Theorem 1.

When I started designing my REU project, I worried that I was either too narrow or too ambitious.  I thought the students might finish in week 1…or not get anywhere at all.  After all, my experience mentoring student research has been with the amazing and talented Robert Huben.  On some days, I felt like I should be happy with less from Robert, and on other days, I thought I should push for more.  I’m sure it was baffling at times, working with Dr. Gibbons and Ms. Hyde.

Let me return to my point.  Based on research as an undergraduate and now my sample size of one research student, I wasn’t abundantly confident in my ability to design a challenging, satisfying, and fun project.  I’m overstating my anxiety a little bit; if I thought I couldn’t pull it off, I wouldn’t have agreed to mentor.  Nevertheless, I was anxious even into the first week.  (Luckily, in grad school, I learned to manage and even transform anxiety into a weird calm competence.)

Well, folks, even if my project had some flaws, it’s turned out to be a good project, and my group is working like a smoothly oiled machine.  Double induction? Ha! They eat double induction for breakfast.  Three cases with several subcases? No big deal.  I’ve taken a slightly more active role in the project now, trying to highlight some opportunities to make progress.  I think we’ll have Theorem 1 nailed down by the middle of next week.  There’s a second theorem I’d like them to prove, and I think that will be a bit more straightforward (knock on wood).  From these two theorems, we get some nice structure results.

I think part of our progress comes from a change of scenery.  We got locked out of our classroom, so we’ve been working in a common space with a couple of comfortable chairs.

Alas, my team didn’t win the first round of research symposium talks, but they have a chance to redeem themselves on Wednesday next week. Here’s the silver lining: I’d feel guilty if they won the research symposium talks every week.  They’re already exceeding expectations!

As for team-building, we had fun at the weekly picnic, we laughed our way through a session on “Do’s and Don’ts” for presentations, and we enjoyed a rousing game of “Rabbit Rabbit Moose Moose” at Friday Floats this week.  The fun will continue into the weekend: some of the students and some of the faculty are going to karaoke this weekend.  Watch out, Bowie.

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