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PRIMES: Nathan Wolfe's Story



When I came into this program a year ago I was very nervous, because I felt like I didn't have the skills that would be necessary to do well here. But I found that I had a partner, a mentor, and a professor who were all supportive of me, and who were all working with me toward the same goal.

Coming into the computer science program last year I knew some Java, and not much else. My project last year was based on working in an experimental language that was different from anything I had ever seen before. At first it seemed to me like learning it would be a big challenge. It turned out, though, that my mentor had everything planned out. My partner and I ended up being able to learn the new language easily, since our mentor was willing to put in a lot of time at weekly meetings to help us understand new concepts.

For most of our time together, the project went well. My partner and I met weekly with our mentor for 2 hours, during which time we sorted out the problems we had had during the week, and assigned work to do for the coming week. My partner and I divided up work and were eventually able to bring everything together to form a cohesive project.

Toward the end of the school year we had to start working on a research paper and give a short presentation at the PRIMES conference. Our mentor, as well as the head mentor, Dr. Khovanova, both gave us a lot of help preparing these things. The presentation at the conference ended up going well.

During the summer I was pretty busy, with a school trip to another country and a math camp. My mentor was supportive of these summer plans, and I was free to do what I wanted with that time off. My experiences during the summer ended up helping me for the rest of the year.

The rest of the time went smoothly. Our mentor moved away after graduating, but he was happy to continue weekly meetings via a conference call. My partner and I also had some more meetings in person on our own. At the end of the year we passed our work off to the professor, whose students will hopefully be able to use it as part of their larger project.

Now I'd like to provide a couple of tips. First, never be afraid to ask questions. Everyone is on your side and no one expects you to know everything. Second, spread your work throughout the week, and start everything early. I find that I never get as much done as I want to when I leave things to the day before. Starting work right after the weekly meeting means that you start off with the right mindset.

Though we didn't end up writing a research paper due to the nature of our project, the experience I gained, especially with regards to working as a team, will help me with research to come.


Nathan Wolfe, together with Istvan Chung, worked on the project A collaborative editor in Ur/Web under the mentorship of Benjamin Barenblat.

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