Chad’s Guide to Doing Colloquium with Chad

Colloquium is a key component of the mathematics major at Williams, and is a fulfilling capstone opportunity allowing you to

  • pursue a topic that greatly interests you,
  • master some new mathematics, and
  • improve your presentation skills to give a clear, correct, and engaging talk.

I am an applied mathematician, and as such, I advise colloquia on subjects such as:

  • Mathematical modeling (in many domains of the natural and social sciences)
  • Applied dynamical systems
  • Analysis and solution of ordinary and partial differential equations
  • Topological data analysis
  • Numerical computation
  • Other topics, insofar as I agree they are not too distant from my areas of expertise

I take great joy in advising colloquia and would love to advise yours. If you ask me to be your colloquium advisor, you should know that I have high standards and expect you to work hard. At the same time, know that I support my students to succeed, and I structure the experience to distribute the workload so that it is as manageable and low-stress as possible. You should end up well-prepared to deliver a successful talk.

Please read the guidelines below. By asking me to be your colloquium advisor, you are agreeing to these guidelines.

I look forward to working together!


Timeline: Contact me about supervising your talk at least four weeks before it will take place. Even earlier is better! You need this much time to prepare appropriately, and to schedule enough meetings with me. We will meet at least five times.

Meeting 0 (optional, more than one month before colloquium): You drop in to my office hours if you want help generating a list of possible colloquium topics. If you already have in mind some topics, feel free to skip this step. You can also peek at colloquium topics from previous years.

Meeting 1 (at least one month before colloquium): You arrive prepared with a list of topics you are interested in and at least one or two sources that you have found for each topic. Please skim these in advance. During the meeting, we think about these topics and sources together. You leave the meeting having made a more focused choice about your topic.

Meeting 2 (at least three weeks before colloquium): You arrive prepared having read source material on your topic in detail. You should mark up papers you read with questions and comments, attempted to answer as many of these as possible on your own, and created a focused list of issues we should address together during our meeting. You also arrive having watched these videos. Really — watch them all. They are not all directly relevant to applied mathematics talks, but the spirit of how to communicate with one’s audience is good. The purpose of watching the videos at this stage is to put you in the right mindset in advance of you attempting to draft a talk.

Meeting 3 (at least two weeks before colloquium): You arrive with a draft of your talk. In applied mathematics, it is appropriate to give a slide-based (Keynote, PowerPoint, Beamer) talk because it affords showing the necessary visuals. You are welcome to include blackboard work in your talk as well, though I don’t require this. You may still have mathematical questions at this stage, and it is ok to draft your talk without all mathematical details resolved. During our meeting, we address remaining mathematical points. Additionally, we go through your draft talk in detail. I provide feedback on the mathematical content, on the make-up of the slides, and on your speaking style. You should expect that your talk could change substantially after this meeting.

Meeting 4 (at least one week before colloquium): You arrive having revised your talk and practiced it at least once, in full, in front of another human. During our meeting, you deliver the practice talk to me. I give you detailed feedback on the mathematical content, on the make-up of the slides, and on your speaking style. You write down the feedback so you can incorporate it.

Meeting 5 (at least one-half week before colloquium): You arrive having further revised your talk and having practiced it at least twice, in full, in front of another human. During our meeting, you deliver your now-rather-polished talk to me for small bits of final feedback. You write down the feedback so you can incorporate it.

Colloquium Day: You arrive having practiced the final version of your talk one to two more times in front of another human. Also, you arrive feeling awesome because you are so well prepared. You deliver a successful talk and get congratulatory handshakes from Williams math faculty. Then you go celebrate.

Meeting 6: Sometime after your talk, when life has calmed down a bit, we meet very briefly to discuss how your talk went. This debriefing is an important part of the learning process!