By Brian Simanek
When the academic year ends, some graduate students have considerable freedom in how and where they choose to spend their time. Some students work, some find teaching positions, and some do research. These are all good ways to spend the summer as a graduate student, although my focus here will be on a different option: summer school.
In June of this year, I attended the Pacific Institute of Mathematical Sciences (PIMS) summer school in probability. The school lasted three weeks and consisted of two main courses lasting all three weeks and three mini-course each lasting one week. The course material was fairly advanced but was accessible to someone who has taken graduate level courses in the subject. Even though the subject matter was not directly relevant to my research, I found the summer school to be a very beneficial experience. Learning new math is never a bad idea. As Sherlock Holmes said “A man should keep his little brain attic stocked with all the furniture that he is likely to use, and the rest he can put away in the lumber-room of his library, where he can get it if he wants it.” One particularly beneficial aspect of the summer school was the mini-course discussing Schramm-Loewner Evolutions (SLE), which enabled me to better understand and appreciate the work of Stanislav Smirnov, who recently won the Field’s Medal.
There are many good ways to spend the summer as a graduate student in math, but attending a summer school or workshop – even one that is not in your field of research – is one good option to consider.