Sunday, 26 June 2005

Morning all,
I've just returned from a week on the Isle of Skye, on my first international maths conference. I'm not sure that it counts as international for me, even though it was a twelve hour bus/train/bus/train/walk a bit/bus journey to get there, but people had come from all over the place.
Goran, Dave and my self didn't register in time to stay at the college (the whole thing was held in a Gaelic language college right on the coast of Skye), and had a two mile walk to the conference each morning. Very pleasant though, and Goran only got locked out of the hostel once during the week - having got back at about 1am - the hostel locks up at 11:45.

I achieved something I'd never done as an undergraduate, making it to four 9am lectures in one week. Most of the talks were very much over my head, due in part to the specialised nature of UK maths PhDs. My first year was spent getting up to speed, as there's a large gap to bridge before any research can be done, leaving two years to focus almost exclusively on a single area in order to produce a thesis. In contrast, American PhDs take five years, and will provide a much broader education. The extra time is needed though, as a US undergraduate degree contains far less mathematics - they'll have "majored in maths", rather than studying it exclusively for three years.
Having said that, there were two lectures in particular I thoroughly enjoyed, and it's been valuable to have time to step back from my own work. I feel like I've got a clearer idea of where I'm going now, which is handy, as I'm planning to submit around Christmas or so, which doesn't leave very much more time for research.

Evening activities were fun, and included a Gaelic singer, whisky tasting & a Celidh. The excursion to climb a mountain wasn't on the best day - visibility was hampered by the thick cloud covering the hills. I came down with a pretty grotty cold towards the end of the week, so I'm quite glad to be home for a bit of a rest. The schedule was quite tough, but it was well worth going.

Now I just need to decide whether I should aim for a job as a professional mathematician or not...