The Programming Languages Mentoring Workshop, or PLMW, is a one-day event that’s held on the day before the main conference program starts at the four major SIGPLAN conferences (POPL, PLDI, SPLASH, and ICFP). It has a scholarship program that funds students to travel to and attend the entire conference, and it is specifically designed to welcome new and aspiring researchers to the conference and help inspire them to pursue (or continue to pursue) careers in programming languages research.

The next PLMW for which applications are open is the one being held at POPL in January, in New Orleans. The scholarship application is open until October 7. (Incidentally, I’ll be giving a talk at that PLMW! But I’d be telling you to apply regardless.)

Why should you go to PLMW? I went twice as a grad student, in 2012 and 2013 (the first two years it happened), and it was a formative experience for me. I want you to go because I want you to benefit from it the way that I did. More importantly, it’s free for students!

Let me repeat that: if you are an undergrad or grad student, the PLMW travel scholarship will give you a free trip to a (usually at least somewhat) cool place. All you have to do is take twenty minutes and fill out a form.

Here is what the form will ask for:

  • Your name and contact information
  • URL of your website, if you have one
  • Why you want to go to PLMW
  • Your citizenship
  • Where you are currently studying, toward what degree you are studying, and how far along you are in the program
  • Whether you have participated in a PLMW before
  • Whether you want to attend a special breakfast at PLMW
  • Whether you have received financial support from PLMW before
  • Where you’ll be traveling to the conference from
  • What kinds of financial support you need (such as travel costs, lodging costs, and conference registration costs)
  • Whether you need support to apply for a visa to attend the conference
  • Whether you need child care at the conference
  • Whether you’re willing to volunteer at the conference
  • What other sources of financial support you have, if any
  • Whether you want a free one-year SIGPLAN student membership
  • Optional demographic information about you

That’s it. You don’t need to write an essay; you don’t need any recommendation letters; you don’t need a CV. You don’t need to have any special qualifications to do this, other than being a student who is interested in, or curious about, working in programming languages research. The PLMW organizers will give scholarships to as many people as they have room for.

I got to go to Rome for free in 2013 because of PLMW. The hotel room was kind of janky, but hey: free trip to Rome because I took twenty minutes and filled out a form! Are you hearing what I’m saying here, people?!

You know, sometimes I feel like I never shut up about PLMW and how you should obviously apply. But I talked to some students recently who I thought were exactly the people who should be at PLMW, but they still weren’t convinced that they should go, or not even sure if they were allowed to apply. So, let me try to clear up some questions and misconceptions.

  • One person asked if you had to have submitted a paper to the conference. No! You do not have to have submitted a paper to the conference. For one thing, if you submitted a paper and it was rejected, how would the PLMW organizers even know that? It’s confidential. (And if you submitted a paper and it was accepted, then you should probably be applying for SIGPLAN PAC funding to go, and perhaps only applying to PLMW as a backup.)
  • One person asked if there was a limit on how many people from a given institution were allowed to apply. No! There is not some sort of local down-select process before you can apply. If you are a student at a college or a university, you can apply.
  • One person was reluctant to go because they didn’t have anything appearing at the conference and were embarrassed about that. Look, as someone who didn’t publish anything of consequence until her fifth year of grad school and was embarrassed about it, I understand that. But I think waiting to go to conferences until you do have something to present is a poor strategy. It’s a good idea to learn your way around conferences before your work is accepted, so that when you do start going to present your work, you can just worry about presenting your work (which is stressful enough by itself), instead of also having to worry about navigating your first conference. Most of the people at PLMW won’t be presenting anything. That’s kind of the point! (And also, it’s not like you have to print out your CV and wear it on your chest at POPL. There isn’t going to be a blinking neon sign over your head at POPL that says “DOESN’T HAVE A PAPER AT POPL THIS YEAR.” Not having a paper at POPL this year is the default for any given POPL attendee.)

So, please go apply already!