# Math-Life Balance

## By Mura Yakerson

"In this [podcast] I post my non-professional interviews with professional mathematicians. I ask my colleagues about their personal experience in math, their struggles and lifehacks. I hope that this shared experience would be helpful for other people in the math community, especially for young mathematicians!"

Interviews are posted weekly during the weekends.

### Math-Life BalanceJul 13, 2022

#### Interview with Jeremiah Heller and Vesna Stojanoska

In this interview, Jeremiah Heller and Vesna Stojanoska share their experience of combining math and family life, discuss their ways to get over occasional demotivation in research and speak about social aspects of research. Jokes included!

Jeremiah's homepage: https://faculty.math.illinois.edu/~jbheller/

Vesna's homepage: https://faculty.math.illinois.edu/~vesna/

Mike Hopkins’ talk at Paul Goerss’ birthday conference: youtu.be/Ix4pg87LKVk

Chapters:

0:00 teaser

0:34 their family and other animals

4:04 kids’ curiosity about math

8:30 wishes for kids’ future

11:04 existential chat about adulthood

13:51 research & relationship

16:13 finding friends outside math bubble

19:26 two-body problem

21:59 math talks as storytelling

27:01 approaches to doing math

31:02 getting over demotivation in research

35:23 mathematics is a social endeavour

37:12 jobmarket pressure

43:24 having kids & academia

47:18 solid advice

#### Interview with Dhruv Ranganathan

Dhruv Ranganathan is a lecturer at Cambridge University, working in algebraic geometry. In this video, Dhruv talks about doing research with undergrads, being tortured by math problems, looking for friends to write math papers, and other cool stuff!

Dhruv's webpage: https://www.dhruvrnathan.net

Photo: from the webpage

0:00 teaser

0:41 from cricket to air planes

2:16 adventure novels childhood

4:46 what do algebraic geometers do

8:39 experience of undergrad research

12:30 how undergrad research really works

15:35 “now I’m a believer”(c)

18:25 why so much pressure in doing math

21:09 how we create pressure for young people

23:44 doing math as a coping mechanism

27:00 math torture vs intense cartoon watching

28:50 speakers love getting any math questions

30:54 math for extroverts

34:25 teaching students who leave academia

37:33 don’t beat yourself up for math mistakes

39:39 how we try and fail to improve inclusivity

43:44 don’t put people from minorities on every committee

45:45 the advice that’s too hard to follow

48:35 fireplace

#### Interview with Kevin Buzzard

Kevin Buzzard is a professor in Imperial College London working in number theory and formal proof verification. In this interview, Kevin shares his views on the role of computers in doing math, tells about his experience of upbringing 3 kids as a researcher and raises questions about the way we approach math education. Lots of glorious laughter and unforgettable facial expressions are included!

Kevin's homepage: https://www.imperial.ac.uk/people/k.buzzard

Channel podcast: https://anchor.fm/math-life-balance

Chapters:

0:00 teaser

0:48 Kevin’s t-shirt

3:06 imagination in math

5:36 computers vs humans

10:43 computers and infinity

12:35 math as a zen puzzle

15:19 role of fashion in math

20:06 mathematicians detecting mistakes

24:41 imperfections in our math

29:14 when the dust settles

31:56 not caring what people think

36:01 how to entertain kids in the subway

40:26 babies as the way to understand humanity

42:52 doing math when you have 3 kids

46:09 writing papers with non-mathematicians

48:54 why kids are forced to memorize math?

53:29 doing exams vs learning math

57:16 unusual advice for students

59:15 the answer to the ultimate question

#### Interview with Maria Chudnovsky

Maria Chudnovsky is a professor at Princeton University, working in graph theory and combinatorics. In this interview, Maria shares her personal experiences: learning Hebrew from math lessons, giving a talk at NASA, using math at her own wedding, and many more!

Maria's homepage: http://web.math.princeton.edu/~mchudnov/

Photo: from Maria's homepage

The essay we mentioned:

W.T. Gowers "The two cultures of mathematics"

https://www.dpmms.cam.ac.uk/~wtg10/2cultures.pdf

0:00 teaser

0:29 respect for math at home

2:43 math helps when you don’t speak the local language

6:42 building a world around a research problem

11:37 explaining math to a broad audience

16:00 giving a talk at NASA

19:42 applying graph theory to your wedding

23:16 problem solving vs learning

27:58 being bad at math olympiads

30:40 working with your own students

33:23 experience of doing a PhD

36:02 memorizing math

37:55 studying physics vs math

43:43 maintaining a work-life balance

49:08 everyone has self-doubts

50:54 first time teaching a class

55:46 final advice

#### Interview with Tomer Schlank

Tomer Schlank is a professor at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, working in homotopy theory and arithmetic geometry. In this interview, Tomer shares his experience of advising a big group of students, speaks about the importance of embracing the struggle, and explains how to get unstuck in a math problem.

Tomer's homepage: https://mathematics.huji.ac.il/people/tomer-schlank

Photo: from Tomer's homepage

0:00 teaser

0:31 astronaut’s dreams

4:06 enjoying the struggle

8:27 top-down thinking

11:35 seminar with physicists

14:52 math dream with Vesna Stojanoska

19:24 taking breaks in projects

22:32 advising 11 students

26:47 doing math & drinking arak

31:14 being stuck is good for you

34:49 how to get unstuck

38:08 don’t worry about talent

42:33 why people hate math

45:36 run towards the problem

48:25 don’t look down on other parts of math

51:43 final advice

#### Interview with Saul Glasman

Saul Glasman worked in homotopy theory and K-theory, and now works as a software engineer. In this interview, we discuss the hardships of academic jobmarket, fears around leaving math, and the fundamental problems in academia.

Saul's homepage: http://www-users.math.umn.edu/~sglasman/

Photo: from his website

#mathematician #mathlife #interview

#academiavsindustry #leavingacademia #jobmarketacademia

0:00 teaser

0:44 always loved math

2:04 why left academia

8:55 the fears of leaving

14:02 staying in touch with math

20:33 send greetings to Saul :)

21:55 stigma around leaving academia

25:13 problems in academia

30:11 we aren't taught to teach

35:50 there's freedom in industry

37:36 and you feel productive!

42:44 social interactions: academia vs industry

45:19 learning effective team work

49:15 you can learn to enjoy a job

52:20 why can't we do internships

55:47 what you wish you knew

59:02 advice for those who have doubts

#### Interview with Giulia Saccà

Giulia Saccà is an assistant professor at Columbia University, working in algebraic geometry. In this interview, Giulia gives jobmarket advice for mathematicians, contemplates some of the struggles that minorities in math get to deal with, and tells about books that resemble math research.

Giulia's homepage: http://math.columbia.edu/~giulia/

Photo: Allegra Boverman

Women in Math program at IAS: https://www.ias.edu/math/wam

0:00 teaser

0:27 interests in history in philosophy

6:51 jobmarket advice

11:37 talking about our insecurities helps

16:23 struggles of minorities in math

20:05 what to do with impostor syndrome

27:01 how to find role models

30:48 Women in Math program at IAS is great

35:57 the future of online seminars

41:06 how to keep track of math projects

47:27 which music helps to do math

49:31 alpinism resembles doing research

52:21 Proust writes about math

58:44 the joy of cooking

1:00:40 a wish for young mathematicians

#### William Thurston "On proof and progress in mathematics"

In this [episode], I read a piece from Thurston's essay "On proof and progress in mathematics", where he reflects on the importance of seeing mathematicians' progress and contributions much broader than just in proving new theorems.

William Thurston on Wikipedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/William_Thurston

Cover photo: from this Wikipedia page

The full essay: https://arxiv.org/pdf/math/9404236.pdf

Thurston's lecture "Knots to Narnia": https://youtu.be/IKSrBt2kFD4

Thurston's answer on MathOverflow about contributions in mathematics: https://mathoverflow.net/questions/43690/whats-a-mathematician-to-do/44213#44213

#### How to become the worst researcher in the world

This sarcastic [episode] is dedicated to my family and all my friends of the last 10 years. They will see why.

A special thanks to Nicole R. for the help with the video(s)! And to my brother for the T-shirt: there’s a tiny cute bug that says "I have giant problems".

0:00 Prologue

0:53 Inclusivity statement

1:24 How to build an abusive relationship with your research

3:00 How to suffer from doing research

5:10 How to be unproductive

7:01 How to compare yourself with others

8:38 How to feel worse from reassurance

9:33 Epilogue

#### Interview with Irakli Patchkoria

Irakli Patchkoria is a lecturer at the University of Aberdeen, working in homotopy theory. In this interview, he speaks about math-tennis balance, shares his experience of moving from Georgia to Western Europe and admits taking part in illegal actions on university exams.

Irakli's homepage: https://www.abdn.ac.uk/people/irakli.patchkoria

Photo: Irakli's private photo collection

0:00 teaser

1:13 epic story of family math

6:21 father’s advice

10:25 don’t work too much

14:41 experience in collaborations

19:02 Georgians and assimilation

21:47 making new friends (hey, Zurich!)

25:47 cheating on exams

28:38 you will have ideas for papers

33:48 don’t be afraid of stars in math

38:16 partying hard

41:25 drinking with mathematicians

43:41 math and the meaning of life

46:22 please make jokes in talks

48:53 helping young mathematicians

#### Interview with Peter Scholze

Peter Scholze is a professor in Bonn University, working in number theory and arithmetic geometry. In this interview, we chat about the pressure of the Fields medal, discuss the pain of writing math papers and argue about math.

Peter's homepage: http://www.math.uni-bonn.de/people/scholze/

Photo: Hausdorff Center for Mathematics / Barbara Frommann

Merkurjev's lecture on the proof of Bloch-Kato conjecture: https://youtu.be/bUaWCOtBUHs

0:00 proof or relatability

0:58 influence of the background

2:50 learning math vs solving problems

7:38 Peter is not creative

11:55 math chat (sorry!)

14:23 collaborating with Dustin Clausen

16:29 math gives head ache

18:20 pressure of Fields medal

21:47 representing others is the worst

24:01 interviews with prodigies

26:53 don't waste time on the Riemann hypothesis

29:28 emails from amateur mathematicians

34:01 lockdown time is unproductive

36:52 writing math is pain

40:50 thanks to Germany for sponsoring math

45:09 updating Hilbert’s list of problems

49:07 Oberwolfach AG’s are cool

55:31 advice for young mathematicians

#### Interview with Ravi Vakil

Ravi Vakil is a professor at Stanford University, working in algebraic geometry. In this interview, Ravi talks about the importance of a community for learning math, discusses the ways of learning to be creative at math and shares how considering other career options helped him to be happier as a mathematician.

A clarification for Ravi's comment on the situation with math in USSR:

Due to deep-rooted antisemitism in the Soviet Union, the admission of ethnically Jewish mathematicians into top universities was unofficially “limited” by the state. Faced with these hurdles, Jewish mathematicians opted for institutions specializing in specific technologies, such as the Oil and Gas Institute. Over time, some of these lesser known institutions earned a reputation for producing leading academics in the fundamental sciences.

Ravi's homepage: http://math.stanford.edu/~vakil/

Photo: website of Stanford University

0:00 teaser

0:40 wish to be an embassador

4:36 school teachers are the most important

7:17 coming up with math questions

12:56 don’t write emails with vague questions

19:12 not making students intimidated

25:41 building welcoming communities

29:34 USSR math: fairytale vs antisemitism

32:13 big picture vs details

39:55 learn math by solving problems

41:45 consider other jobs to release pressure

49:00 why look down on applied mathematicians

53:15 how to follow math talks

59:27 the most desired interviewee

59:58 wish for young mathematicians

#### Interview with Max Karoubi

Max Karoubi is a Professor Emmeritus at the University of Paris 7, working in K-theory and algebraic topology. In this interview, Max shares warm memories about Grothendieck and the Bourbaki group, discusses math studies in Northern Africa and highly recommends doing research in collaborations.

Max' webpage: https://webusers.imj-prg.fr/~max.karoubi/

Photo: from Max' webpage

0:00 teaser

0:43 getting into math in Northern Africa

5:33 getting a family helped to do math

9:12 PhD under Cartan and Grothendieck

13:05 Grothendieck: naive genius

16:53 Karoubi as a name for math terminology

19:18 new foundations of hermitian K-theory

22:20 why write math in french

26:33 founding European Congress of Mathematics

29:30 collaborators are the best

34:35 the importance of teaching

38:53 why french people are arrogant

42:26 RIP good jobmarket times

44:33 how we can help math in developing countries

46:44 traveling to USSR in 1961

48:58 please don’t boycott ICM!

51:35 you cannot do math alone

55:58 wish for young mathematicians

#### Interview with Mariana Smit Vega Garcia

Mariana Smit Vega Garcia is an Assistant Professor at Western Washington University, working in geometric analysis and partial differential equations. In this interview, Mariana speaks, among other things, about her math-life balance, the experience of representing different minorities and the joy of teaching mathematics. In addition: lots of friendly advice for undergrads!

Mariana's webpage: http://faculty.wwu.edu/smitvem/

Photo: from Mariana's webpage

0:00 teaser

0:44 didn’t want to be a professor

3:28 trying to find math-life balance

9:10 collaborators are friends

13:06 mathematician-extrovert

16:05 experiencing sexism

19:10 burden of representing a minority

21:38 insecurities in math

27:09 joy of teaching

30:07 motivation to do research

34:28 algebraic vs analytic worlds

38:35 pessimism in research

40:31 we are more than our math

44:22 moving around the world

49:35 advice for students from faraway

52:32 initiatives for minorities

58:32 what students have to know

1:00:08 final advice

#### Interview with Richard Thomas

Richard Thomas is a professor at Imperial College London, working in algebraic geometry and mirror symmetry. In this interview, Richard speaks about math education for kids, contemplates the process of doing research and gives plenty of good advice for PhD students.

Richard's webpage: http://wwwf.imperial.ac.uk/~rpwt/

Photo: Richard's wikipedia page

Interview with Richard Thomas

0:00 teaser

0:30 non-linear way in math

3:14 the mystery of mathematicians

6:55 kids' attitude to math problems

11:40 boys vs girls math approach

16:26 me being triggered (clickbait!)

21:32 what made Richard a mathematician

26:40 insights vs dull proofs

29:06 math is subjective

30:08 process of doing math research

35:16 obstructions to enjoying research

37:53 what students should know

43:53 hardest part of research

47:36 insecurities of mathematicians

51:19 psychology of doing math

54:55 minorities in math

1:01:14 math during an earthquake

#### What brought me into math

This video is dedicated to my teacher of mathematics in the middle school, Andrey Yurjevich Alexeev. Time for stories about my first encounter with "abstract math" and my first math talk!

My school: https://610.ru/en/

Photo of A. Yu. Alexeev: from Vasily Baev's private collection

#### Interview with Marc Levine

Marc Levine is a professor at Duisburg-Essen University, working in algebraic geometry and motivic homotopy theory, and my PhD advisor! In this interview, Marc contemplates how to look for research problems, learn new research areas and move from USA to Germany with your family.

Marc's webpage: https://www.esaga.uni-due.de/marc.levine/

Photo: Marc's private photo collection

0:00 teaser

0:48 becoming a mathematician

2:51 family’s reaction

4:48 moving from USA to Germany

6:55 bilingualism and jokes

10:40 skills for doing research

14:15 encouraging to stay in academia

17:06 PhD advising

18:55 what is work

20:20 mysterious time-management

23:00 not being judgmental

25:08 geometric intuition

27:55 thinking too fast

29:03 challenge of moving forward

32:24 finding math problems

35:26 independence after graduation

38:21 serious research mistakes

43:09 how to learn motivic homotopy theory

45:45 learning math backwards

47:28 changes in the math community

51:31 mathematical inspiration

53:21 funny conference encounter

55:12 my gratitude and R. Kipling

59:13 advice to young mathematicians

#### Interview with Dustin Clausen

Dustin Clausen is an associate professor in Copenhagen university, working in algebraic K-theory, homotopy theory and number theory. In this interview, Dustin shares controversial opinions on publishing and grant system, tells about his view on leaving academia, and reproduces very vividly a Tarantino style plot of an interrogation in Moscow, for stealing cookies! P.S. Dustin would like to assure the viewers that he did not steal any cookies.

Dustin's homepage: https://www.math.ku.dk/english/staff/faculty/?pure=en%2Fpersons%2F467008

Photo: from Copenhagen University webpage

0:00 teasing teaser

0:40 French high school shock

5:04 being grandson of John Tate

8:00 doubts about academic career

9:38 alternative career options

11:01 opinions too negative to share

13:41 disappointments of grad school

15:01 giving a satisfying math talk is impossible

17:01 decision to stay in academia

19:56 publishing is a rotten enterprise

23:51 struggles of refereeing

26:27 mistakes in talks and papers

31:10 my first impression of Dustin

33:17 numbers and homotopies

36:25 Mike Hopkins is the best

40:40 Jacob Lurie as PhD advisor

44:11 not understanding is great

47:44 reading and writing math papers

51:17 “Math in Moscow”: thrilling story

57:00 doing math when you have babies

59:04 distributing grants equally

01:01:02 how to not be afraid of job market

01:03:18 funny reaction to saying you’re doing math

01:05:23 kind words for those who feel demotivated

#### Interviews with mathematicians: how & why

In this episode I’m telling about my reasons for making interviews with mathematicians and about the process of doing it. Please leave your feedback for the project in the comments on the Youtube channel! I really appreciate it :)

My personal webpage: https://www.muramatik.com

0:00 Comments and feedback are welcome!

0:40 How to help the channel?

01:09 Why I am making the interviews?

02:50 Was I afraid to start the channel?

05:18 Did I have experience with interviews before?

06:17 How do I choose interviewees?

08:20 What are the main rules of interviewing?

10:16 How I prepare questions?

13:33 How I prepare interviewees?

14:58 How I am trying to show that interviewees are relateable?

15:48 What goes wrong during an interview?

18:03 What are the happiest moments?

18:53 What's the hardest about making interviews?

19:44 What are my main tools?

#### Interview with Olga Paris-Romaskevich

Olga Paris-Romaskevich is a CNRS researcher at Marseille Institute of Mathematics, working in dynamical systems. In this interview Olga talks about the joy of popularizing mathematics and shares a truly inspiring story of how she (almost) quit math!

Olga's webpage: https://romaskevich.carrd.co

https://marielhuissier.carrd.co (Marie Lhuissier, mathematical storyteller)

https://www.mathematiquesvagabondes.fr (French association Mathématiques Vagabondes created by Olga Paris-Romaskevich and Marie Lhuissier, to foster exchange between arts and mathematics)

https://matematika.mathematiquesvagab... (site of the MАТЕМАТИКА project — exchanging with women in mathematics in Russia)

http://ciel.mmi-lyon.fr/ Exhibition Mathematics of the sky

0:00 teaser

00:30 unexpected interview outcome

01:16 when math research became a choice

04:45 why you choose math

8:44 what being a mathematician means

10:43 how math changed you

12:50 which skills math research gives you

17:16 desired changes in the math community

21:21 what’s included in “inclusivity”

25:48 young mathematicians feeling included

28:14 math as an instrument in life

32:28 why popularize math

36:15 traveling through Russia to collect math stories

38:28 how Olya inspired me to start “Math-life balance”

39:19 the importance of dreaming

40:10 how Olya quit academia (not clickbait:) )

44:28 what happens when you decide to stop doing math

47:30 don’t change how you are, change the world around

49:57 not working when you don’t have motivation

51:38 how to learn a TED talk

53:24 cool metaphor of math research

56:12 advice to those who feel lost these days

#### Interview with Rahul Pandharipande

Rahul Pandharipande is a professor in ETH Zurich, working in algebraic geometry. In this interview, Rahul talks about advising PhD students and maintaining a big research group, the role of mathematics in the world and the intuition behind mathematical problems.

Rahul's webpage: https://people.math.ethz.ch/~rahul/

0:00

teaser

0:25

math vs physics

4:38

proof is the last thing

6:55

misconceptions about math research among students

9:46

PhD students teach Rahul

12:32

personal feeling for a math problem

13:28

geometric intuition

17:25

entertaining lectures with ideas

19:31

Rahul's struggles in research ;)

20:53

collaborations are the best

24:47

big research group is easier to maintain

26:59

which students are good mathematicians

28:35

should you do a PhD in math?

29:55

managing work-life balance

32:48

research group hikes are fun

35:55

doing math with no pen and paper

39:08

Schopenhauer recommendations

40:14

how to do math when your homeland is in pain

43:56

algebraic geometry is very useful

45:53

math joke with an explanation

47:58

what is good mathematics

50:33

extra opportunities for minorities in math

52:03

funny conference episode

53:54

chatting about my youtube channel

54:20

please help me advertise the channel!

55:18

I want more collaborators

55:39

good advice for young mathematicians

#### Interview with Adebisi Agboola

Adebisi Agboola is a professor in UCSB, working in number theory and arithmetic geometry. In this interview you get to hear non-standard opinions on many questions, such as encouragement to do math among minorities, working on a Millenium problem and the rules of doing mathematics.

Bisi's homepage: https://web.math.ucsb.edu/~agboola/

0:00 teaser

0:43 hating math

5:45 teaching math to small kids

9:38 explaining your research to non-mathematicians

13:11 following math talks

15:21 the comfort of not understanding

20:33 confronted with a problem you have no clue about

22:02 lists of black mathematicians

26:41 diversity measures in mathematics

32:46 whether you have drive for math

35:29 the only rule of doing math

38:01 escaping math in a cinema

42:24 weird reason for doing a job

44:46 unexpected outcome of giving up

46:33 working around a Millenium problem

49:39 writing a research statement

53:24 biggest misconception about math research

56:00 people think mathematicians are crazy

58:36 why mathematicians lack social skills

1:00:00 find your own way

#### Interview with Thomas Nikolaus

Thomas Nikolaus is a professor in the University of Münster, working in algebraic K-theory and homotopy theory. In this interview Thomas talks, among other things, about non-standard approaches to math seminars, the importance of branching out and asking questions, and the lack of feedback in the mathematical community.

0:00 teaser

0:50 changing research areas

3:22 learning vs working

5:44 teaching advice

6:53 branching out

8:15 advising PhD students

10:09 writing skills

11:31 lack of feedback in the math community

15:06 the famous Bonn seminar

17:15 the feeling of not good enough in math

19:55 interesting jobs outside academia

21:25 Thomas interviews me… oops!

27:10 the right definition of K-theory

29:50 taking care of your research group

31:15 seminar where speakers aren’t allowed to prepare

33:50 asking questions at talks

36:31 choosing whom to hire

38:28 getting over math frustration

39:35 don’t be afraid

#### Interview with Hélène Esnault

Hélène Esnault is an Einstein Professor in Freie Universitaet Berlin, working in algebraic geometry. In this interview Hélène talks, among other things, about social discrimination, her passions to poetry and philosophy, and her work at the Fields Medal Committee.

0:00 Social discrimination 6:57 Passionate about humanities 12:00 Struggle of solving math problems, being different 17:44 Focusing on math and intuition 21:25 Moment of enlightenment 23:26 Working on a math problem 29:10 Losing keys at night 31:05 Experience of collaborations 36:07 Are you good enough to do math 37:49 Personal webpage filled with poetry and photos 46:35 Working in international committees 53:42 Fields Medal Committee 58:00 Fun quiz for the end!