The Sum


One of the neatest pieces of shorthand I learned in my many mathematical years.

“The Sum of” and then an expression or a concept. In simple terms, add up everything that looks like this.

You might have some lower or upper bounds, you might have very specific things you want to add. If you’re lucky there could be a formula that represents what that sum is (I used to love working out those). I use Σ when trying to decide whether or not a crazy idea is viable financially.

A PhD candidate is the sum of their experiences. “Σ everything you’ve done” – there are lots of little formulas we could create…

  • Your talent is perhaps Σ your experiences.
  • Your knowledge is Σ your results + Σ your reading + Σ your failures!
  • Your thesis is Σ the hours you’ve spent.

There’s around 6000 of those hours. The viva is not a one-off event, it’s the next one that you’re going to succeed at. Add up all of the days that you’ve spent getting to the viva. All of the good things you’ve done. All of the less good stuff that helped you learn.

Σ all these things equals someone meant to be at the viva.