I just got done presenting my research project to a bunch of other undergrad math researchers. There seems to be a trend when presenting math research. You go up to the chalk board and present a bunch of tiny details about your project, or they prove their main result right in front of the audience. They attempt to prove an accurate mathematical proof. When a presenter does this, I believe they alienate the audience. This might seem like a good idea to the presenter, but the presenter is the only one who understands the proof or details because s/he has been working on it full-time for the past 3 months and the audience has not.
To me this seems pretty evident. Every time someone first goes up to the board, the audience is at attention because the presenter starts off by first telling them why they’re doing the project in the first place. This part is usually understandable, so people tend pay attention. But, like I said before, they dive straight into the deep end of their proof, and they lose people. In some context, the proof is the important part. But this would mostly take place in a much higher level conference. This is because people are interested in proofs mainly because it’s an attempt at an important unsolved problem. Not many undergrads tackle these kinds of problems. But in the Math REU, I believe that showing that you actually understand something or that you’re doing something interesting is more important.
So when I presented, I tried to connect some dots between the various fields of mathematics I was using. This problem was very exciting for me because our research team (of 3 people) were able to make small connections between the fields of Differential Equations and Algebraic Geometry. For the non-math person, it’s not common to find a researcher working in both of those subjects. So, they’re relatively far removed from each other.
The feedback I received was that people understood my talk. That’s great, but it didn’t seem like people enjoyed it as much as I did. But I suppose that’s a lot like how a presenter will understand the detailed proof of his project because he’s been working on his project forever. I enjoy this project, I enjoyed the bridge between two islands of math, because I’ve been working on this project full-time for the past three or four months. (I’ve actually been at it since September 2015.) So, I suppose I shouldn’t be shocked that people weren’t as enthusiastic as I was.