Panel of Recent Grads Lends Advice

By Dan Kaslovski, CU SIAM Graduate Student Chapter President

On Thursday April 24, the graduate SIAM chapter of the University of Colorado Boulder gathered for our final meeting of the academic year. Held jointly with our undergraduate chapter, the meeting served as a chance for students ranging across all levels of our department 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 of our recent degree recipients. Cecile Piret, Ph.D., Josh Nolting, Ph.D., and Kye Taylor, M.S., each having successfully defended a thesis in the preceding weeks, offered their thoughts, advice, and anecdotes.

Before the discussion began, we took a moment to honor our outgoing president Christian Ketelsen. Our faculty advisor, Dr. Tom Manteuffel presented Christian with an appreciation award for his two years of service to our chapter. In addition to heading CU-Boulder's chapter, Christian also 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 came to settle in to his/her respective niche. They described the process of finding an advisor, 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 advisor with whom you feel comfortable. Showing an early interest in a professor's research, asking for a small project, and enrolling in faculty member's special topics courses were the ways Cecile found a match with her advisor. Kye knew he had a good working situation when his advisor told him to ask “stupid questions,” as this is the way one learns.

On the daunting task of writing a thesis, Josh shared his feelings that it is constantly a work in progress. While sitting down to write, one discovers new directions in which more research is needed. He claimed that 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's advised to write a report of the progress 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 her “few months of pure hell” a little more palatable.

The atmosphere of our graduate community was touched upon as Kye offered, “We work hard and learn more than what is presented to us in class.” This meeting served as yet another opportunity to learn outside of the classroom. The successes and failures that were shared leave us with a sense of direction and ambition as we wrap up this year.


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