Oklahoma School of Science and Mathematics (Secondary), University of Texas at Austin (Undergraduate), Princeton University (Postgraduate)
BSc in Mathematics and Computer Science (University of Texas at Austin), PhD in Mathematics (Princeton University)
Postdoctoral Researcher (University of Toronto, Canada), Postdoctoral Researcher (Imperial College London)
Senior Lecturer in Mathematics
School of Mathematical Sciences
Queen Mary University of London
I am a mathematician at Queen Mary University of London
I am a Senior Lecturer in Mathematics in the School of Mathematical Sciences at Queen Mary University of London. In my job, I conduct mathematical research, which lie in a number of areas such as partial differential equations, analysis, differential geometry, and mathematical relativity. I also teach undergraduate class to students studying in our school.
How I Use Maths In My Job:
Being an academic mathematician, mathematics of course plays a role in everything I do!
In doing research, I have the unique opportunity to create new mathematics and discover new knowledge, which is some combination of exciting, interesting, challenging and frustrating. While much of the material is advanced, it is built upon concepts algebra, geometry, and calculus.
In teaching, I get to communicate mathematics to a much wider audience, and at many different levels. This is an entirely different but challenge, compared to research, but it is rewarding all the same.
I do research in partial differential equations and relativity. I also teach university classes (most recently in geometry).
My research lies in an area of mathematics called differential equations. These are similar to the equations that people commonly see, but they also involve the derivatives and integrals that one encounters in calculus, which makes them much more complicated!
Differential equations are interesting because they model many real-world phenomena, such as gravity, electricity and magnetism, water waves, epidemics, and stock markets. By creating and studying these mathematics models, we can better understand, as well as make predictions about, very complicated things in the real world.
My research also involves the mathematical study of Albert Einstein’s theory of general relativity, which models gravity and its interaction with matter in the universe. There are many complicated things one can say about relativity and gravity, but one thing is that the GPS in your phones would not be accurate enough to be useful without taking relativity into account!
Finally, I recently just finished teaching a university course called Introduction to Differential Geometry. This is a module for undergraduate students in which one studies the geometry of curves and surfaces using ideas from algebra and calculus, as well as how this geometric knowledge can be applied to other areas.
My Typical Day
It can be unpredictable!
As an academic, there is quite a bit of flexibility in my workdays. Most of my research work involves thinking of proofs, discussing with collaborators, and writing up the work. This can be done anywhere and almost anytime, as long as I have pen and paper, a computer, and an Internet connection.
The exception is with teaching and with meetings, which, of course, happen at scheduled times.
Finally, this is not so much a typical day, but I do have the opportunity to travel for work (prior to the COVID-19 crisis), for conferences and research visits, since other experts in my area are scattered all over the world.
How would you describe yourself in 3 words?
It's hard to reduce everything down to only 3 words, but I guess I'll go with my main interests: maths, music, computers.
What or who inspired you to follow your career?
I came from an immigrant, working-class family, so I didn't grow up knowing any mathematicians or academics. I was fortunate to have had some success with maths contests when I was younger, which let me reimagine what was possible as I entered university and encouraged me to stick with my studies.
What's your favourite use for maths in everyday life?
Many answers here, but a good one is encryption. Every time one sends sensitive data over the Internet (e.g. credit card information in a purchase), a lot of interesting maths gets used to make sure that no one else can decode and take away this information.
What did you think about Maths when you were in school?
My encounters with challenging maths problems in school were limited to maths contests, so I think I was pretty competitive about it. I was rather ignorant of the wider world of maths back then though, as I had no idea what maths research entailed until I was in my PhD.
What did you want to be after you left school?
I didn't know. I had some vague ideas about doing research, but I didn't know anything about it at that point.
Were you ever in trouble at school?
Not really, I was fairly tame. I did my share of stupid things, but luckily, nothing terrible or especially troublesome!
If you weren't doing this job, what would you choose instead?
My childhood dream was to make and program my own videogames, so perhaps I would choose to do that.
Who is your favourite singer or band?
In popular music, Stevie Wonder - amazing musician and trailblazer, and hugely influential.
What's your favourite food?
Oh, I like all kinds of food, and I eat everything. There are too many things to name!
What is the most fun thing you've done?
I'm a big sucker for karaoke. Maybe not quite the most fun, but definitely up there!
If you had 3 wishes for yourself what would they be? - be honest!
I wish I was more productive, and I wish had more free time. I guess I also wish I was a bit taller too. :)
Tell us a joke.
(Recently found on the Internet:) Did you hear about the statistician who drowned crossing a river? It was three feet deep on average. :/