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Student Chapter Events: Some Ideas and Tips

by Sam Relton and Mary Aprahamian, University of Manchester SIAM Student Chapter

One fundamental activity of any student chapter is running events to facilitate research collaboration, encourage new members to join and (most of all) to have fun! In this blog post we’d like to talk about some ideas that the Manchester student chapter has found to be successful, some tips for running them yourselves, and some interesting events that other chapters are running.  Most of this post is based on our experience of organizing the SIAM National Student Chapter Conference 2012 (SNSCC12), the first national student chapter conference in the UK, with help from the other UK chapters.  You can find details of the conference here.

Poster sessions are always a good addition to a conference. Whether you’re organising the conference yourself or doing a poster session for somebody else’s event, they are sure to spark some interesting discussions and give everyone something to look at.  A poster session gives `more people the chance to present their work beyond what would ordinarily fit into the regular talk schedule, and also allows greater interaction between the researcher and audience because of the less formal setting.


Poster session from the SNSCC12 event at Manchester University. (by Lijing Lin 2012)

Poster session from the SNSCC12 event at Manchester University. (by Lijing Lin 2012)


A few tips for organising a poster session:

have the session over lunch and placed near the food so people can browse whilst eating

organise the poster boards so that people can easily move between posters and view interesting ones on the next row (see the picture above)

offer a prize for the best poster to encourage more submissions. Getting a business to sponsor the prizes in return for a talk slot is a good way to save money whilst increasing the diversity of talks

 Afternoon seminars are always a good way to learn what other people are working on and to get some ideas for your own research.  When Jack Dongarra (Univ.  of Tennessee) visited Manchester this summer, we organised a seminar on high performance computing with  people attending from the computer science, mathematics  and electrical engineering departments. This was a really easy event to organise; all we needed to do was send a few emails to advertise the talk and provide the tea and biscuits!

Our tips for running a seminar:

get in touch with your speaker at least a month before the event

ask people to RSVP as this helps gauge the numbers for the catering

remind people a day or two before the event takes place

Some, including the newly formed Reading chapter, have taken this a step further by running a weekly seminar series for PhD students to discuss their current work.  See their website for details on how they run the seminars.

Social events are another way to bring PhD students together.  After our annual conference at Manchester, we took everyone out to get some food and chat over a few drinks. This was a great way to meet everyone who had travelled here for the day and ended up being a fun night on the town.

Also, at the start of the academic year, the Oxford chapter ran a “meet the committee” event to see what everyone would like the chapter to do during the year. This is definitely something we’ll consider in Manchester next year.

Some tips for a post-event social:

choosing a restaurant or bar before the event and confirming they can accommodate you

handing out RSVP slips in the welcome pack and collecting them over lunch. Then you can ring the restaurant with the final numbers

picking a restaurant that serves a good selection of halal and/or vegetarian options

We also love the idea for a talent show, such as one organized by Arizona State University.

Some other ideas we’ve had include:

a regular blog post or short video showcasing a piece of research from the department

a historical lecture, giving the mathematical history behind your area of research

a monthly trip to a local restaurant

a “Math Movie Night” for everyone to laugh at Russell Crowe writing on the windows of his dorm room in A Beautiful Mind

a “Careers Fair” where a group of industry speakers talk about what opportunities are avail- able for postgraduate students

These are just a few ideas that we thought of, but there’s really no limit to what you can organise at your university.  We’re looking forward to seeing other student chapters join forces to create bigger and better events in the coming years!

P.S. We’d love to hear any ideas or comments you have so feel free to contact us at siam@maths.

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