Friday September 10th
This week was a bit short
- I ended up just spending my Monday doing homework, but I also got some rest in. Our study group met on Sunday, and we basically figured out that our school shuts down on the weekend, except for a couple of buildings. But we were able to make progress and the group itself was fruitful. So we plan on meeting again this weekend!
- I started my homework already, as I’m taking a class that also is a bit more advanced simultaneously, and also has its own set of homework for that. So that means I have to read ahead. But I’ve been trying to take my time to work through everything, which takes time.
- I met with one of the professors today (and met her dog! For anyone who is keeping score, that’s 2/2 professors and 2/2 dogs now), and she told me I might also consider taking some Combinatorics classes, too, along the way, which would be awesome. I enjoyed chatting with her, which I think ended up being longer than I anticipated, just because she was so easy to speak with, and made me think about a lot of things. I appreciated that she said that she herself didn’t initially come equipped with all the Maths things, and wished there were more stories like that, because it’s so true that depending on the school you attend, you may or may not be exposed to different types of Maths. My high school was very stats and kinematics focused for our O and A level components, so we didn’t do a lot of proofs. Even at the Further Mathematics level, there was a lot more focus on things like real analysis, because the focus was the Cambridge Advanced Level examination. That just means I have to do more of them now. It’s a more reasonable way to approach Mathematics, rather than, what I’ve seen in both Maths and CS, which is to assume that “it’s just really hard” and you should give up. I think that’s more of a cultural assumption here in the United States, though.
- I am also part of this functional programming Slack group where someone asked about compilers this week, since they said it wasn’t something they had the opportunity to do while they were in school. I really appreciated how immediately, we had a really great thread of resources for that. That’s how it should be, to be honest, especially if you’re enjoying the field. Everyone has gaps, so you’re filling in the bits you need along the way. For me, that involves filling in parts I need for research, and to make progress in that. I feel like I’m in a lot more control compared to my first semester, where I was made to feel stupid by a couple people in CS because I was juggling multiple things that I wasn’t the best prepared for, to be honest. On top of that, I was grappling with being in a new environment, TA-ing, and being largely isolated from my peers, who weren’t exactly going out of their way to include me in their study groups or collaborative problem-solving. So the whole thing was a hot mess. I felt a mixture of anger and frustration in realizing this semester that it wasn’t that I was stupid, but just that it was a larger jump than I anticipated, and I wasn’t set up the best to reach what I thought my expectations would be in taking certain courses. What’s frustrating is that I had other students, who did have some of that background, put me down for that lack or gap of knowledge. The thing is, though, that everyone has gaps, and they, too, will come to be in positions where they don’t know the thing, and will have to grapple with that. For now, I’ve learned from that experience, and feel a lot more supported in Pure Maths, and set up to succeed (even though yes, I’m still CS).
- I feel a bit frustrated that I even let these people get into my head, but I guess I came from a space and a place where people were inherently supported. So that was my expectation, rather than being thrown into a cut-throat culture with individuals grappling with their own insecurities and projecting that onto other people. Quarantine, in that respect, was positive for me, because I didn’t have to deal with that day to day. To me, doing a PhD is very personal, but within grad school, many students can see you as competition that they need to eliminate, which is super weird. People put you into a box. I remember in one class, I went to a TA during office hours, because I’m the sort of person who wants to understand things thoroughly, and they legitimately told me that “people who come to office hours are at the bottom of the class”. This person is in PhD school. This is awful. I want my TA to root for me, not have disdain and an inherent lack of faith in my ability to succeed and to grasp concepts. After that, I pretty much silently lost respect for that person.
- Fortunately, a semester later, I had the courage to ask my advisor what he thought, and he said that he disagreed with the TA, and that he’s personally found that students who come often to his office hours just want to engage with the material more; they want to understand it more deeply, and they are often some of the strongest students. Good Professor! That was also the semester I went to office hours profusely and ended up getting an A+ in a class, so….I’m just one statistical data point.
- It’s very interesting, because everyone in my high school, regardless of major, had to do (1) Maths (2) Science, even if it was Integrated Science, as opposed to Physics, Biology and Chemistry, or Additional and Further Mathematics. However, when I arrived in the United States, it was the first time I had heard comments like “I’m doing this (subject) because I suck at Maths”. In my home country, it’s something that a lot of us would grind through, regardless of whether we liked it or not. So culturally, it’s different in that way. I’ve heard that the way we think about Maths is similar to say, how it is thought about in some Asian countries, too (but I can’t say for certain). It’s not something that is assumed to have a limit (certainly at the lower level) based on “talent” or “ability”, although there are, of course, people who pick up things more quickly and enjoy it, as in every field. But it’s expected that if you don’t immediately “get it”, that you just have to put in more time, and to practice more. And that’s it; no excuses about that, and no judgments based on an assumption of “innate ability”.
- So, that’s kind of the way I plan on approaching things; just put in the work, pretty much. Same as a lot of things. Consider that I’ve done this many times in my life, and succeeded. Usually, it starts with my working from the bottom rung up. I did this in undergrad, having zero experience in the thing I decided I wanted to focus on, and getting literally to the top of the class. I’ve done this many times in my life. I did plan on going to office hours to find out how to set myself up for proper habits, but ended up getting out so much more from meeting my professor, including thinking about what futher study and research would look like for me. And that’s awesome. The truth is, coming from a system where we really didn’t get to enjoy Maths; it was something that we would just grind through, this feels like some of the first times that I can actually enjoy doing it. And that’s pretty cool! That will be my goal; to keep the joy, which is a step up from the way I had been trained to think about it growing up (rather than, as a means to an end).
- This week, we had some amazing workshops at our summer school. I ended up skipping two classes and then dropping a course to attend the summer school lectures.
- They were specifically (this week) on Kummer varieties and Cantor’s algorithm, polarization, theta functions, the Montgomery Ladder , scalar multiplication and the implications of “twist-secure”, as well as higher genera, attacks and tradeoffs. I have to say, I was completely riveted by the lectures! One of them was 3 hours long, and I left feeling pumped!. A lot are based in Europe, so I attend at 3 or 4 in the morning, but it’s really been a joy for me. I’m typing this and my laptop is chugging because I have a bunch of tabs open with papers to read open!
- Omg..and then someone in our workshop posted a Kummer varieties meme! This has been such a fun space for me, with really friendly, down-to-earth people.
- What’s also super cool is that I was reading up on Kummer spaces, and as it turns out, a good friend of mine did her PhD on that (she’s now a lecturer). So that was a pleasant coincidence! We met at a random number theory conference, I think, in 2018-ish?
An Isogenies Meme (courtesy of Krijn)
- My school is having a Combinatorics seminar next week, and one of the first persons I ever met who was nice to me (ie a student; yes, of course they’re a Pure Maths student) when I first started school is giving a talk! I signed up for their mailing list immediately, and hope to attend as much of the seminars as I can. I’m super excited!
- I got into a Quant Modelling Summit from a Wall Street place. So I attended that, and it was really great meeting some of the people there, even though I’ve super been dragging my feet on recruitment this year. This week was pretty rough, and I have to catch up on some stuff. I’ve just been so focused on school, and the workshop, that a lot of other things have been a blur, unfortunately. I hope that next week or the week after, I can get back on track with respect to that!
Swag from Open House
- I attended Adobe’s Open House last week (or was it week before?), and they sent us some swag! They also sent us a nice note thanking us for attending!
Swag from internship
- We got customized swag this year, based on the design the interns voted on. It finally arrived!
There is some more stuff on the way, too!
- I hope to meet a good friend tomorrow. I’m super excited! This has been an amazing week! It’s the first time I told someone that grad school has felt really fun for me, and I’m enjoying everything.
And that’s it
Written on September 10, 2021