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Siemens October 7, 2009

Posted by Damien Jiang in Uncategorized.
Tags: , ,

Unfortunately the depth and breadth of my mathematical knowledge are not as awesome as Akhil’s. So, I’ll talk about something else related to math.

I, like probably every other contributor to this blog, submitted my research paper to the Siemens competition about a week ago. Despite the incredible amount of editing I did at RSI, I realized, to my dismay, that the bulk of the editing was still to be done.

I added a “motivation/applications” section and some more work to my RSI paper, which included a characterization of all the period lengths of the parallel chip-firing game on complete bipartite graphs. I followed with a construction for certain periods on complete k-partite graphs; though I had been fairly certain these were going to be the only possible periods for complete k-partite graphs, I woke up one morning and realized they weren’t (bigger periods were possible; luckily, they still seemed to obey the conjecture of Bitar (1989) that the period length of a parallel chip-firing game on a graph G is at most the number of vertices V(G).) Such is life.

I sent out this revised version to my mentor, some teachers, and some undergraduate friends. They offered plenty of help – but mostly on semantics. Only when I went over it again to make sure it made sense did I realize I still had gross mathematical errors in my paper, from when I had changed my work from complete regular bipartite graphs to complete bipartite graphs [the logic was the same, but my notation did not carry, and a proof of one of my inequalities was plain false.] I suddenly realized why I hadn’t won anything at RSI for my paper.

After 40 or so hours of work in the week before the deadline, I was finally ready to send my paper out; all the mistakes were fixed. I woke up early, and my dad took me to FedEx at 8 AM to mail the paper out through overnight mail. I was grateful to have such a huge burden off my shoulders.

A few days later, my dad realized I was missing a preposition in the statement of my theorem. Such is life…

I am (and again, probably every other contributor is) planning to submit my paper to the Intel STS competition as well.  Good luck to all. I’m glad I’ve learned something about paper-writing even after RSI!

P.S. Having swine flu is very unfortunate. Wash your hands!



1. Qiaochu Yuan - October 7, 2009

Good luck to you all at Siemens! Us alums always look forward to the results every year 🙂

2. Akhil Mathew - October 7, 2009

I had a similar experience; two or three weeks before the deadline I realized in gym class that the proof of the result I thought I had proved during RSI was actually…incorrect, so your description of 40-hours/week near the end seems accurate for me too.

I was also amazed at the number of (less serious) mathematical mistakes that I found each day while proofreading.

3. mollishka - October 8, 2009

This is all good practice for the real world…

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