It is my impression that not every institution has a graduate student seminar, that is, a seminar completely organized by graduate students. This was the case at my university, so I decided to start one. This gave a place for everyone from first year students to post docs (and sometimes professors) to meet and talk about various topics. For example, this fall we decided to each pick a paper and give a talk about the main ideas of the paper. These talks gave way to good discussions and each person who talked gained a special understanding of their topic. Next semester, as students are preparing for job interviews, we plan on using the seminar for job talk practice. This will give the senior student practice and the beginning student a feel for what type of research is being done in the department.
Here are some more benefits/ideas of a graduate student seminar:
- Gives students a chance to practice speaking about research in front of a group;
- Forces speaker to prepare and articulate ideas;
- Allows new students to see what the senior students are researching;
- Study topics that are not in the core classes;
- Practice reading and understanding papers;
- Creates a tighter community between newer grad students and senior students;
- Participants can learn about different topics without much work.
So, if you don’t have a graduate student seminar, I encourage you to start one. It does not have to meet every week, but I believe giving students a chance to talk about their interests is very helpful to all.
(By the way, Asher Auel posted on a related topic a while back. If you are interested, here is the link: Organizing a Reading Seminar )