This semester my Graduate Complexity Course has nine students in it.
It had not been offered for two years (when it had around 20) so the demand,
such as it is, should have built up. Of my 9 students only about 4 are theorists.
Why did the UMCP Grad Students in theory NOT take grad complexity?
(I am regarded as a good teacher so I'm not the reason.)
The reason is that there were two competing grad theory courses in terms of the requirements - Algorithmic Game Theory and Comp Bio.
This raises the question which I ask, as always, non-rhetorically. Is a theory grad student in ALGORITHMS, who is NOT working in Alg Game Theory better off taking Grad Complexity or Alg Game Theory? Alg Game Theory (or some other
type of algorithms course that is not quite what she does) is perhaps more in their interest and perhaps more the kind of thing she might switch to later. But
`every theory grad student should know complexity theory', or more precisely
`every theory grad student in algorithms should know about lower bounds on algorithms, e.g., PCP, aproximatin lower bounds, maybe a few other things like Unique Game Conj and some concrete lower bounds' This is true philosophically but time is short.
My course has in it (1) Complexity classes L, NL, P, NP, PSPACE, EXPSPACE some problems complete there and all known relations, (2) All of the machinery to do GI NPC implies PH collapses, (3) PCP and lower bounds on approximation.
(DO NOT prove the full PCP theorem). If time permits I may do some concrete lower bounds (PARITY not in constant depth or some Proof Theory lower bounds). OH, I may do SHARP P and Toda's theorem also, but this semester we had some snow days and that ended up not being done, though I did do
Valiant-Vazarani and told them ABOUT SHARP P without proofs.
When Jon Katz teaches it I think he does some Derandomization and no concrete lower bounds (JON- if you are reading this you an comment and correct me).
The question of Comp Theory VS ALG Game Theory is really asking how well rounded one should be and in what sense. Someone who works on Approx Algs who takes Alg Game Theory could say that this DOES make them well rounded. Complexity theory is further away from their interests and from anything they may work on, but `every theory grad student should know it' Or should they?
I am not complaining about having only nine students (I don't have a TA so I
do all of the grading- so in that sense its great!) but I ask YOU the question,
how important is Complexity Theory (my course or perhaps some other course) for a grad student in algorithms to know?