The GRWC Model

The GRWC model was developed as a way to give graduate students and postdocs an opportunity to get involved with collaborative research and get career preparation at a key point in their academic career. For each workshop there are three distinct phases, namely pre-workshop (dealing primarily with problem cultivation); in-workshop (the main part of the program with focus on beginning collaborative work); and post-workshop (dealing primarily with disseminating results).

This model has been refined through several iterations of running workshops and has proven to work well. For any questions about how GRWC works, or about how to adapt this model to other disciplines, please contact the organizers at


Problem submission

All participants applying to GRWC submit an open problem in combinatorics, either of their own creation or drawn from the literature. These problems form the basis of the collaborative research undertaken at the workshop. Submitted problems may come from any area of combinatorics, and should satisfy the following general criteria.

  1. Problems should be broad enough to be accessible to a reasonable segment of workshop participants, and the participant should be able to concisely summarize their problem, any relevant history, and related prior research. At the same time, problems should also be of sufficient depth and interest to form the basis of a serious research project with the potential to obtain impactful results.
  2. Problems should be at least initially approachable by student participants. Participants should avoid the proposal of long-standing conjectures that have flummoxed field leaders for many years. On the other hand, we envision that relaxations or variants of such problems could provide an excellent basis for collaborations within the GRWC.
  3. While it is intended that collaborations started at the GRWC will extend past the workshop, it is important that collaborative groups within the workshop have a reasonable chance to make nontrivial progress on the proposed problems.

Individual Mentoring and Problem Refinement

In order to ensure that the submitted problems meet the above criteria, organizing faculty will engage in one-on-one mentoring with accepted participants to help them refine their submissions. Each mentor will work to ensure that proposed problems strike the appropriate balance of depth and accessibility. Further, mentors will help participants carry out literature searches surrounding their problems, develop some possible first approaches, and ensure clarity of exposition.

Selection of Problem Presenters

After the initial mentoring and problem refinement is completed, the organizing committee will select 15-20 participants to present their submitted problems during the first week of the workshop. Presenters will primarily be selected based upon the quality of their problems (as measured by the above mentioned criteria), however the organizing committee will also strive to select a sufficiently broad spectrum of problems that will engage a diverse group of students.

Development of the "Open Problem Garden"

Due to the size of the workshop, not all participants will be able to present their submitted problem. At the same time, it is possible that the presented problems may not support sustained collaboration throughout the conference, either due to new insights into the difficulty of the problem, or the discovery of additional prior work after collaboration has started. As such, all proposed problems will be made available to the participants at the end of the first week. This will provide a bank of appropriate problems that can be used to supplement presented problems during the workshop and thereafter. After sufficient time after the workshop has concluded, these problems will be made available on the website in the Problem Garden.


Week One: Problem Sessions and Group Formation

Each morning will consist of problem presentations by students and postdocs. It is likely that the first and possibly second day of the workshop will have more presentations than the other days, allowing for the introduction of problems in a number of different areas. This will ensure that all participants will have the opportunity to undertake problems that lie sufficiently close to their research interests.

Following the problem presentations, participants will divide up into research groups focused on each problem. We anticipate that participants will take part in multiple collaborative groups, although efforts will be made to ensure that participants do not dilute their experience by trying to work on too many problems simultaneously.

During the workshop there will also be presentations introducing common tools that participants will be useful in their research.

Week Two: Continued Collaboration

The focus of the second week will be to continue the collaborative group work started in week one. In this time, it is likely that some groups will disperse, and new ones will form to work on other presented problems or those in the Problem Garden.

Professional Development Seminars

During the second week of the workshop, the organizing committee will have panel discussions about various aspects of the profession. Examples of such discussions include:

  • Preparing for the Job Market
  • Delivering Quality Research Presentations and General Audience Job Talks
  • Choosing the Right Publication Venues for Your Work
  • Grant Writing: What is it all About?
  • Is a Postdoc for Me (and how might I get one?)
  • Taking the Long View: Developing a 5-year Research Plan
  • Vita Vitals: Improving your C.V.

Social Activities

Ample time is given for participants to interact in social settings. These activities involve group meals, opening and closing social events, and informal outings to local activities (e.g., hiking) during the weekend between the first and second week.


Finishing research

Most problems that start at the workshop take time to fully develop and write up the results. Collaborations started at the workshop continue past the workshop and some funds are available to support bringing active teams together to finish papers.

Presentation of results

Papers that come out of GRWC are submitted for publication to a variety of journals (for examples see the Research Papers). In addition research from GRWC gets presented at numerous seminars and conferences. There have also been special sessions organized specifically for research coming out of GRWC at the Joint Math Meetings in 2016 and in 2018, and the SIAM Discrete Math Conference in 2018.

Continuation of collaborations

A major benefit of participation in GRWC is meeting people at a similar point in their career and forming collaborative relationships which can help sustain a research program.

People form friendships at the workshop that last long after the workshop ends; for example at the Joint Math Meetings there is frequently a social event involving former GRWC participants.