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Math-Life Balance

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.

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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: 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
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: Channel podcast:​​​​ 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
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: Photo: from Maria's homepage The essay we mentioned: W.T. Gowers "The two cultures of mathematics" 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
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: 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
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: 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
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: Photo: Allegra Boverman Women in Math program at IAS: 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
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: Cover photo: from this Wikipedia page The full essay: Thurston's lecture "Knots to Narnia": Thurston's answer on MathOverflow about contributions in mathematics:
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
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: 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
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: Photo: Hausdorff Center for Mathematics / Barbara Frommann Merkurjev's lecture on the proof of Bloch-Kato conjecture: 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
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:​ 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
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: 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
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:​ 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
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:​ 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
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:​ Photo of A. Yu. Alexeev: from Vasily Baev's private collection
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: 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
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: 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
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:​ 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?
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:​​ (Marie Lhuissier, mathematical storyteller)​ (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)​ 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
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: 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
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:​ 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
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
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:​ 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!
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:
February 25, 2021