Time to start planning your summer!

As the days grow shorter and pumpkin-flavored everythings begin to inundate our lives, we are just starting to accept that summer is really over.  But believe it or not, it’s already time to start planning next summer!  In this post, I have gathered some of my favorite advice on how to build your ideal mathematical summer.  First of all, here are the two big reasons why sooner is better with summer planning:

  1. Monotonically decreasing funding availability: As a general rule (with the exception of occasional opportunities which suddenly crop up), funding availability for summer math activities decreases monotonically from here on out.  A good number of summer funding deadlines are in December and January (and some even earlier), so browsing for conferences and workshops now can help protect you from missing the perfect one.
  2. Visualizing the large-scale structure of your summer: Your summer schedule probably has a lot of moving parts which might include teaching, research, visiting family and friends, conference and workshop travel, and (maybe) even some relaxing.  Now is the time to start thinking about your summer goals and priorities and figuring out how the major blocks of time will fit together.  You may still have several overlapping possibilities, and some of these time conflicts may not get settled until last-minute administrative or funding decisions are made, but visualizing your summer options now on a month-by-month desk calendar or on Google Calendar can be very helpful.  And then when that email arrives from your university asking who is interested in which summer teaching assignments, you’ll be ready to hit reply immediately with a well-informed decision so you can be first in line for your top choice!

 

Even if you are not ready to present any original results, attending math conferences over the summer can be a great opportunity to meet leaders in your field and to get inspired by hearing about the latest developments.  Alternatively, summer schools and workshops are often geared towards graduate students and can be an efficient and fun way to learn new technical skills.  Below are some tricks for finding the workshops, conferences, and summer schools that are best for you.

  1. AMS Mathematics Calendar: Perhaps the most comprehensive compilation of math conference titles, dates and links anywhere on the web is found on the website of the American Mathematical Society on the Mathematics Calendar page.  It is a fantastic place to start browsing through upcoming possibilities with the least amount of effort.  (And it’s fascinating to see how far in advance some conferences are planned!)  There is also an analogous list provided by the European Mathematical Society.
  2. Google: With so many conference organizers depending on word of mouth to announce their conferences, some conference websites stay hidden in the dustiest and most obscure corners of cyberspace, seen only by visitors with direct links.  But armed with your expert googling abilities and some patience and care, you can find some real gems.  Be ready to do up to a few dozen searches with slight variations of keywords; include perhaps only one specific math subject or term at a time, along with any subset of {graduate, math, summer, 2016, workshop, conference, funding}.  You can also try adding in specific locations, names, or universities if you want to further narrow things down.  Also try some searches where you leave out “2016”; this will cause you to get more outdated workshop pages in your results, but sometimes the workshops you find are annual and you can find the most recent workshop page either by deleting part of the URL or trying a more targeted Google search with keywords specific to that event.  You can also send an email to the listed organizer of a past conference that you would have loved to attend, and politely ask them if they know of any comparable upcoming events this summer.
  3. Word of mouth: A targeted and effective approach for combing through the first list of options you may have built from steps one and two above (and for adding events you may have missed) is by simply asking professors and grad students at your department.  Stop by your department’s tea time this week and ask others (both in your field and not) about conferences and workshops they have attended or organized in the past or what they are looking forward to for this summer.  Even if some people can’t think of anything at that moment, they may think of you the next time they get a conference email, and they might forward it to you.  Another idea is to roam the halls of your department looking for relevant conference posters on professors’ doors and to ask the corresponding professors about the posters that seem particularly interesting to you (even if they happened in the past).  Also be sure to visit the bulletin boards where math event announcements are hung up in your department.
  4. Sign up for relevant email lists: If you sign up for the right email lists for your math interests, you will find that conference and workshop invitations will begin to land effortlessly in your email inbox without any advanced googling.  You will, however, actually need to open and read your emails for this technique to work.  Here is an excellent list of math-related listservs to get you started.  The idea is to sign up for as few of the most relevant lists as possible, so choose carefully!  You might also want to ask the organizers of your favorite weekly seminars at your department to add you to their internal list, as conference announcements are sometimes circulated that way.  You may also enjoy signing up for newsletters and announcements from a few major math institutes, e.g. this mailing list for the Fields Institute, in order to get early information of upcoming programs.

What are you favorite summer math events, conferences, or workshops that you have attended in the past or are looking forward to attending in the future?  Have you found any great online lists of conferences that you would like to share?  Do you have any tips or questions on how to build the ideal mathematical summer?  Leave a comment below!

About Alexi

Photography, teaching, driving, and foreign languages are other passions of mine.
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