The development of projects at Eötvös Loránd University, Budapest
What are the key issues in an MSc in applied maths? Of course the applications and the maths! But the order (and even more the emphasis) matters. In Budapest we had a traditionally strong theoretical mathematics education and when the new direction of Applied Maths was launched in the 1990s, not much experience was available in this respect.
However, as time was passing by, we gained experience and put more and more emphasis on hands-on experience with real life problems. First a 2-semester „problem-solving seminar” was introduced, where based on our industrial and other contacts we have invited specialists, who first introduced their problems to be solved, then in the second semester each of the students have chosen and worked on one of these.
Subjects like the effects on magnetism on mice, micro-meteorology were just a few typical examples of the ones from this pioneering period. However, in spite of some good results, we were not entirely happy with the chosen form. The classroom-type lectures held first by the supervisors, then by the students were not always interesting enough for keeping those students’ attention alive, who were not keen on the given subject. And practically one of the two semesters were lost from the practical point of view, as it was kept for the introductory lectures.
So the institute decided to reform this seminar two years ago, with the aim of further emphasizing the practical side of the tuition and ensuring a more effective and smooth running of the course. So the new course, titled “individual project work” has replaced it, which is a three-semester course, in ideal situation leading towards the writing of the thesis in the fourth (and last semester). There was a wide area of subjects offered from real life problems like character recognition on cars’ number plates or mathematical models in genetics, through power plant production optimization to multicast methodology in big data models, via a short abstract and a list of references, provided by the potential supervisors. The students have to write a presentation and a written summary of their work after every semester, giving a clear picture of the work done. An important point is that they learn to present their results in a given time slot, a useful skill! The talks were presented in a conference, which was divided into two days, ensuring that talks on similar subjects form a block, where quite often lively debates were initiated by the participants, with the supervisors also providing useful information if needed.
The conclusion after the intensive two days-meeting was formulated best by a colleague from another university attending our meeting, that he has never had such a good mood in his institution. This compliment ensured that it was worth the effort.
Department of Probability Theory and Statistics
Eötvös Loránd University