UCSD Mathematics


Will Garner: Statistics, in particular, Time Series Analysis

Will Garner: Statistics, in particular, Time Series Analysis

Will Garner

Undergraduate education: UCSD
Research interests: Statistics, in particular, Time Series Analysis
Favorite qual class: Numerical Analysis
Personal interests: web design, watching movies

Personal History:

In the summer of 2001, I was visiting college campuses, deciding where I wanted to go as an undergraduate. I stopped by the math department at UCSD and I was able to sit down with a faculty member for an hour, talking about the program. In comparison to the other schools that I visited, none was as friendly as UCSD; I knew I wanted to come here.

During my years as an undergraduate, I was able to build a rapport with many faculty members and when I was looking at graduate schools, UCSD was my number one choice, so when I was accepted, I had no hesitations.

I was surprised by how much time I had to put in as compared with undergraduate classes. Qualifying exam courses were difficult for me as some of them were in fields that I was not strong in. I was quite relieved when I passed my last qual.

I was fortunate to find my advisor, or rather, to have him find me. I had heard from other graduate students that it is a good idea to take classes outside of the field you are thinking about pursuing, as you might find something else that you like. Coming in, I thought that I wanted to do Numerical Analysis, as I had enjoyed the undergraduate courses in the subject.

I quickly learned, however, that I only enjoyed certain aspects of Numerical Analysis, specifically polynomial interpolation and other topics that are more often used in Statistics. So, on a whim, I took the Applied Statistics sequence.

The subject came naturally to me and I found that I had a strong intuition for the subject, unlike other classes that I was taking at the time. The instructor also noticed and suggested that I take a reading course with him the next Fall. As I took more statistics classes, I came to realize that I wanted to pursue the subject and that professor is now my advisor.

I consider my story to be somewhat atypical, as many graduate students are coming to UCSD for the first time. And most will need to seek out an advisor on their own.

Advice to incoming students:
If I could pass along one piece of advice, it would be to form study groups for qual classes. Being able to talk with other students about problems was quite useful. Even if you feel comfortable with the material, explaining it to others will help to reinforce it.

Neal Harris: Number Theory, Representation Theory

Neal Harris: Number Theory, Representation Theory

Neal Harris

Undergraduate education: Stanford
Research interests: Number Theory, Representation Theory
Advisor: Wee Teck Gan
Where I live: UTC/La Jolla
Interests: surfing, racquetball, tech, bridge

Why I chose UCSD:
I was interested in studying number theory, and UCSD has several faculty in number theory, all of whom think about the subject in different ways. It seemed like coming here would give me a lot of different perspectives on the same topic, which always helps when trying to learn something. Also, I grew up in San Diego.

Favorite thing about UCSD:
The math department here has lots of people that work on lots of things. If you ever want to learn about a particular topic, there’s a great chance that someone else in the department knows something non-trivial about it.

Amy M. Irwin Stout: Noncommutative Algebra/Algebraic Geometry

Amy M. Irwin Stout: Noncommutative Algebra/Algebraic Geometry

Amy M. Irwin Stout

Undergraduate Education: SUNY – Stony Brook and NYU
Research interests: Noncommutative Algebra/Algebraic Geometry
Advisor: Daniel Rogalski
Where I live: Hillcrest
Interests: films, music, board games, nature, politics

Personal history:
Like my mother and grandmother, I grew up in Pasadena, California, just east of Los Angeles. After spending some time at Pasadena City College, I headed back east to New York and graduated from New York University with a bachelor’s degree in Politics and Women’s Studies. You may now realize that this is quite an unusual path for a person who would ultimately end up in graduate school studying mathematics. While math was my favorite subject in high school, my lack of self-confidence prevented me from pursuing it on a college level.

I chose Politics with a plan to pursue law school and practice public interest law. While studying at NYU I fell in love with New York and after graduation took a position as a paralegal with a very large corporate law firm there. This proved to be quite a grueling experience. Whenever I get frustrated with the math I am doing, I think back to how tedious my job was, with hundreds of boxes of documents to organize and hours that kept me at work until three in the morning. Slowly my desire to pursue law school dwindled, and after six years, I knew I had to make a career decision.

I was very curious about learning more physics and decided to take some classes at SUNY – Stony Brook. After my six years of dedication, the law firm was nice enough to employ me part time while I pursued my interests. In the process of taking physics classes, I took many math classes, which I soon realized I enjoyed more. It had been nine years since I took a math class, so I really had to start from scratch, even retaking calculus. I spent three years at SUNY Stony Brook before I received my second bachelor’s in mathematics.

After eleven years in New York City, I am now back in California at UCSD studying noncommutative algebra/algebraic geometry with Prof. Rogalski.

Advice to incoming students:
My advice to those who are considering graduate school in math after taking time off from academics is that it really is never too late to come back. However, your transition to graduate school may be much easier if you assure yourself a solid foundation in math. I could have received my bachelor’s in math after two years, but knew that I wasn’t ready for grad school.

Even after three years, I found the transition from studying while working part time to becoming a full time graduate student quite challenging. However, if you keep at it, you’ll get where you want to be!

Kevin McGown: Number Theory

Kevin McGown: Number Theory

Kevin McGown

Undergraduate education: Oregon State University
Research interests: Number Theory
Advisor: Harold Stark
Where I live: UTC/La Jolla
Interests: hiking, martial arts, taking my dog to the beach

Why I chose UCSD:
I knew I wanted to study number theory and UCSD is a great department for that with several professors who do research in the subject. I also liked the fact that UCSD is a large department, which means lots of options and exposure to lots of mathematics. Finally, San Diego seemed like a nice place where my wife and I wouldn’t mind spending the next five years.

Advice to incoming students:
Take classes in your area(s) of interest from day one, even if it means taking a little longer to complete your quals. As far as passing quals goes, spend lots of time studying with others and at least as much time studying alone. It is important to really get into the material, and find your own way of understanding it.

Chad Wildman: PDE & Applications in General Relativity

Chad Wildman: PDE & Applications in General Relativity

Chad Thornton Wildman

Undergraduate Education: UCSD
Research interests: PDE & Applications in General Relativity
Advisor: Jacob Sterbenz
Favorite qual class: Real Analysis
Personal interests: sailing, distance running, traveling

Personal history:
I grew up in the northern California town of Napa amidst the grape vines (no I don’t own a vineyard). After high school, I entered UC Berkeley as an electrical engineering and computer science major. I soon realized that (a) I didn’t know anywhere near enough about math and (b) I was a fan of neither electrical engineering nor computer science.

I soon left Berkeley and began learning about math, eventually transferring to UCSD as an undergraduate math major. There I realized that mathematics was my true passion, and after graduating I continued on as a PhD student.

Advice to incoming students:
It’s not over after the quals are over! Although you should definitely make sure that you focus first on passing all your quals, don’t lose sight of the most important agenda here: your research. Once you are finished with quals, then (if you haven’t started already) you are able to max out on reading courses, topics courses, and the like.

Jim Lin, Muir College acting Provost

Jim Lin, Muir College acting Provost

Jim Lin, Muir College acting Provost (as of 2011)

Undergraduate Education: UC Berkeley
Graduate Education: Princeton University
Personal Interests: tennis, fishing, camping, hiking, raising tropical fish, koi, supporting diversity, raising a family and traveling

Personal History:

I grew up in West Los Angeles; my father was an engineering professor at UCLA. I went to Berkeley and studied math and physics. However, I found myself handling the non laboratory aspects of science much better. (I broke $200 worth of pipettes in my freshman chemistry course!!) In my junior year, I entered the Education Abroad Program in Gottingen, Germany. There I discovered topology, and was fascinated by it. At the same time, I was hitchhiking around Europe, taking the train from Paris to Moscow and going north of the Arctic Circle. When I returned to Berkeley for my senior year, I took a grad course in algebraic topology and enjoyed it very much. I began to wonder if it would be possible to have a career studying topology.

In Princeton there were no qual courses: students were expected to be self taught. I discovered that my fellow grad students were a tremendous resource. We used to play pool in the basement of the Graduate College (the resident dorms for single grad students) and I would ask them how to solve algebra problems from Lang’s book as well as questions about topology. My fellow grad students ended up giving me many tutorial sessions. I took the initiative to create several learning seminars with my fellow grad students. Studying for the quals taught me to learn things fast and to be able to think on my feet. It has helped me a lot when I now end up teaching a course that I have never taught before. I began to realize that my fellow grad students would be my “community.” For fun, we organized ski trips and trips to New York City and Washington DC. In meetings with my advisor, I would describe what I learned and work on problems that were known in the field.

Advice to Incoming students:
Get to know other grad students who are here, especially those grad students who are a bit ahead of you. Find a group with whom you can have some recreation and exercise. Build a community of people who you can talk to so that your view of the program is not formed by just one advisor. Get to know several professors as well, so that they can offer you different viewpoints. These people will be your life-long friends and you will see them at math meetings and in other contexts. Some may help you with teaching or finding a job, and others may be your colleagues in research.