# Math-Life Balance

By Mura Yakerson

The official podcast version of Mura Yakerson's YouTube channel Math-Life Balance. What Mura has to say about the content:

"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.

"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.

##### Where to listen

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

48:56

December 19, 2021

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

01:01:34

November 29, 2021

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

56:23

August 30, 2021

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

53:56

July 16, 2021

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

01:00:36

July 10, 2021

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

01:01:23

June 29, 2021

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

05:22

June 22, 2021

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

10:08

June 22, 2021

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

51:58

May 30, 2021

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

56:42

May 22, 2021

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

01:01:15

May 08, 2021

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

56:46

May 05, 2021

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

01:02:31

April 17, 2021

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

01:02:50

April 10, 2021

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

10:51

March 26, 2021

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

59:35

March 21, 2021

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

01:06:12

March 13, 2021

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?

20:04

March 08, 2021

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

57:58

February 26, 2021

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

56:29

February 26, 2021

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

01:01:43

February 26, 2021

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.
Thomas' homepage.
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

40:18

February 26, 2021

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.
Hélène's homepage: http://page.mi.fu-berlin.de/esnault/
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!

01:03:35

February 25, 2021

Interview with Inna Zakharevich

Inna Zakharevich is an assistant professor in Cornell University, working in algebraic topology and K-theory. In this interview Inna talks, among other things, about the psychological struggles of doing research, about insecurity and possible ways of dealing with it, and about her approach to a math-life balance.
Inna's book recommendations from the interview:
1) Paul Zeitz "The Art and Craft of Problem Solving"
2) J. Littlewood, B. Bollobas "Littlewood's Miscellany"
Inna's homepage: http://pi.math.cornell.edu/~zakh/

49:32

February 25, 2021