Volunteer Lecturer Program: Exit Survey

Name of Volunteer:   FIDEL NEMENZO

Home Institution:  Institute of Mathematics, University of the Philippines

Position at home institution:  Professor

Arrival and departure date in host country: March 20- April 11, 2012


Who was your main contact in the host country? Ham Karim, Department of Mathematics, Royal University of Phnom Pehn.


1)     Location of your lecture: Royal University of Phnom Penh (RUPP), Phnom Penh, Cambodia 


2)     Dates of your lecture: 22 March to 6 April 2012


3)     Subject and title of the course: Algebraic Number Theory. Offered as part of the MS Mathematics program of RUPP


4)     How often did you teach a course? The lectures took place everyday, from 8 am to 5 pm, with breaks in between.


5)     How many students took part in the course(s)? There were 12 students. Ten were Cambodians, 2 were Laotian.


6)     Background of students: Undergraduate/ Master/ PhD Students? They were masteral students. They took their undergrad studies in their home countries.


7)    Schedule of activities/list of topics covered during your visit:

The classes were held everyday from March 22 to April 6, from 8AM to 5PM. But lectures usually began at 8:30, because some students come late. Unfortunately, there were some days when there were no classes because of university holidays, which the course administrator did not warn us about. There were also three days called off because the university was closed during the ASEAN summit. The following topics were covered during the course:

  • Introduction to elementary number theory
  • Divisibility, division algorithm, prime numbers
  • Diophantine equations
  • Congruences
  • Quadratic reciprocity Review of groups, rings and fields Field extensions
  • Unique prime factorization in Euclidean domains
  • The Gaussian and Eisenstein integer rings Algebraic number fields and their integer rings Unique factorization, class number
  • Units in algebraic integer rings
  • Special topics (Pell’s equation, Fermat-Wiles Theorem, cryptography, etc.)


8) Did you develop or follow a prescribed syllabus or did you write your own?  Was it available to the students before the course or when the course began? I prepared an overview of the coverage of the course, which I taught with Michel Waldschmidt. Here it is:

This course serves as an introduction to algebraic number theory. It will begin with a review of elementary number theory and abstract algebra. The arithmetic of algebraic number fields will be discussed, including examples such as quadratic and cyclotomic fields, with the study of Diophantine equations as motivation. An application to Fermat’s Last Theorem will be discussed.

It was made available to the students before the course through the program website. I also explained the coverage during the 1st day of class. But upon agreement with Prof Waldschmidt, we had to adjust the topics, because the students did not have sufficient background.

Please also mention the references you used or any text books that were referred to:

  • Andre Weil, Number Theory for Beginners, Springer-Verlag
  • Daniel Marcus, Number Fields
  • Kenneth Ireland and Michael Rosen, A Classical Introduction to Modern Number Theory

9) Did you use any books, classroom material, AV, or other technology-based materials?

No other material was used other than the blackboard

10)   What type of assessment tools did you use?

A problem set which I prepared for the mid-course assessment and end-of-the- course examination.


11) In which language was the course given: English


12) Was the course language the native language of the students?  No. The native languages of the students were Khmer and Lao.


13) Did you give any public lectures, and did you discuss with local staff issues regarding the curriculum? No public lecture. I had very little interaction with the local faculty, as there was always no one in the faculty room except the administrative staff.


14) Where did you live?
I stayed in a hotel near the Grand Palace, about 20-30 minutes away from the university by tuk-tuk.


15) Do you have any recommendations/suggestions  to the professor who will visit the university in the future (also regarding accommodation, health and visa issues)?
Phnom Penh is a fast developing city which lots of choices of good accommodation and places to eat. I suggest that a professor who wishes to spend some time here stay hear the Sisowath Quay area, where there are lots of places to stay and good restaurants. There are also many foreigners so it is easy to find places catering to needs of tourists.  I am adventurous when it comes to food- so I tried everything, including the local food fare in the street. I do not recommend this though for the general traveler because street food is not always clean.


16) Would you like to share anything else, such as a particular experience, testimonial etc.?
While having dinner at a restaurant, I met an Australian couple who has lived in Phnom Penh for over a decade. They invited me to their house one weekend. Their house was by the Mekong River, so I had the experience of swimming in the Mekong!