After a tough and focused spring term, I've recently found myself living in a
surprisingly balanced life of what feels like a summer job, and a moderate
social life. Since the two major courses of Functional Analysis and
Analytical Number Theory finished in May, and may I say with flying colours,
my main task was to find a thesis project to complete the minor advanced
studies. Incidentally, I was also looking forward to a summer special
course, Introduction to Fractal Geometry. While it was the perfect thesis
material for my physical and computational background, the actual course
took on an interesting turn for me.
That summer-job feeling entails something relatively light and easy, meaning you can enjoy care-free evenings after completing a day's task. More importantly, the work relates closely to your field of study, making it fun and interesting. This is a very welcome change from my spring routine, where I spent an inordinate amount of evening and weekend time on the studies.
As I was attending this relatively easy course (subject/intermediate level) and already discussing further plans with the lecturer, I ended up a kind of course assistant. Or at least an editor and a typesetter: this being a first-time course, there are no existing lecture notes, there's just me and my LaTeX fetish. I can type most of it on the fly during the lectures, which is a rather intense experience. I often end up writing macros on the fly as it's the only way to keep up, and also helps organize things in general. There is a level of distraction compared to my usual full and relaxed lecture attendance, but I generally make it up during the post-lecture editing.
Despite the relative ease of the material, it is every bit as interesting and fulfilling as I expected. This is really going to the roots of the kind of chaos and fractal stuff that has fascinated me since my early teens. I felt something similar during the Topology courses: where has all this fun been all these years — not just for me personally after such an elongated study career, but for every math student that only gets to such interesting levels in their final years. Indeed, this is one reason to keep the fractal course a notch easier, without using advanced tools like measure theory.
The one unfortunate bit is that I'm not getting paid for this work, though I do get the course credits without exams, which is fair enough. The real pay-off for me is that the course is doubly interesting and fun this way, and I wish I would have volunteered more for something like this. The way this provides a teacher's perspective to the course is of course extremely valuable for me, both as a professional experience for the future, and a chance to contribute to teaching at this department.