Tag Archives: applied math

What happened to the dream?

I finally got to see 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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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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Stop Ignoring Impact Multipliers

I love to play board games, especially in this golden age we’re in. Every once in a while, I learn a new way of thinking from a board game. In this post, I’d like to share one general lesson that I learned from one of my favorite strategic board games, Navegador. This lesson actually succinctly encapsulates key messages from several of my recent blog posts, among other thoughts I’ve had recently.

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Why I Didn’t Do Research In Your Area

[Note: This is a followup to my post last week about lessons I’ve learned in graduate school. The format is inspired by Tim Challies.]

Friend,

Your field of research definitely sounds interesting. I really enjoyed taking that class, listening to that seminar talk, or reading a few of your most recent papers. I actually understood most of what you were talking about! Some of the techniques are quite clever, and you and your collaborators all seem really friendly.

You’re probably wondering why I didn’t end up joining you there. And you’re right to wonder — it would have been nice to collaborate with you, and I haven’t exactly found something else revolutionary to study instead. Well, it’s mostly because…

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