Category Archives: Math

What happened to the dream?

I finally got to seeĀ La La Land with my church community group this week. I appreciated its down-to-earth, intentionally banal depiction of Hollywood as well as the subtle poking fun at LA traffic and lack of seasons (a flash mob dance number during a traffic jam opens the movie, in “WINTER”).

The palm tree is part of the joke.

Everyone in the movie is striving to make it in the entertainment industry somehow. And it’s the depiction of this striving that forms the main tension in the movie and my deepest thoughts after it ended.

Boston has a similar feel, with seemingly everyone striving to achieve academic or entrepreneurial success. Well, that’s not entirely true — I’ve certainly met many, particularly in church, whose efforts also included a healthy dose of family and community. But if you spend enough time on campus and casual social gatherings, the first topic that often comes up is what you work on, or what you’ll be doing after you graduate, and you can come away with the same sort of impression that it’s why everyone came here.

But it wasn’t the cities that the movie made me think about the most, it was myself. What has happened to my dreams?

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Make Academia Less Solitary

Last week, I wrote about some of the misconceptions that I had of math graduate school, essentially offering suggestions for how grad students should act and react within the academic system. In this post, I’d like to offer some suggestions for improving the system.

All of these suggestions relate in some way to building better community among students and researchers, something that’s been a bit of a pet project for me. I’ve been able to act on most of these ideas personally, but I also offer a moonshot at the end.

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Misconceptions of Math Grad School

In my day job, I am a graduate student in the MIT Math Department, an experience I’ve reflected on before in What I Wish I Knew When I Got to Graduate School and Why I Didn’t Do Research In Your Area. Both of those posts focused on graduate school as a whole, naturally inflected by my own experience but not primarily discussing aspects unique to my department. In this post, I’d like to focus on the particulars of going to graduate school in math, centered on five of my own previous misconceptions of it.

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