Math Grad School: Pursuing a Math PhD w/ Interest & Determination

In summary, the speaker is an undergraduate student majoring in mathematics who has completed several advanced math courses with good grades. They plan to pursue a PhD in math and are concerned about their natural mathematical talent and whether it is enough to succeed in rigorous courses and graduate school. They also mention their motivation, interest, and future plans to continue studying math.
  • #1
AnIntegral
1
0
I know that there are hundreds of posts exactly like this but posting my own just seems more satisfying. I am an undergrad sophmore at a pretty big university. I am majoring in mathematics. I've finished single variable, multi variable calculus, lower division linear algebra, probability, combinatorics, and diff eqs with all a's and b's. I'm currently in an into to proofs class and plan on getting at least a b.

By the time i graduate i plan on having completed abstract algebra, analysis, ud linear algebra, and a few other electives that interest me (number theory, topology, etc). I'm also doing a physics minor purely for interest.

with the proofs class i am in right now i am finding myself putting A LOT of work into it. more than I expected. i know that i must do well in this class to succeed in any further math classes. To me, mathematics is absolutely amazing and I would rather do nothing else. However, I am worried as a enter more rigorous courses that success is not entirely, but more than ever, dependent on creativity rather than interest and determination. I know that these usually go together but I guess what I'm getting at is to ask whether or not you think i have a shot at grad school.

I plan on graduating with ~3.6 and hopefully a few research experiences. i am a female which might give me a slight preference (even though giving preferences for things like that is just stupid, i guess i might as well try to benefit from it). As of right now I really don't ever want to stop studying mathematics, ever in my life. I don't want a real job, a lot of money, kids,, family, none of it. I really just want to use my life to learn as much as I can. Anyways to conclude, I guess my question is although I am in general pretty good at math I feel like compared to some of my peers my natural mathematical talent is a little lacking. I have to study more and try harder. Are motivation and interest enough, or is something like a math PhD only attainable to those with motivation, interest, and a VERY strong natural mathematical talent?
 
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  • #2
AnIntegral;2605674I have to study more and try harder. Are motivation and interest enough said:
For most students, and most courses, there isn't really any time for creativity at undergraduate level. You need to understand the framework and fundamentals before being in a position to play with it.

It seems as though you're really just looking for re-assurance but one must be honest: a frank answer to your other questions is that, no, not everyone is capable of doing a PhD. There is no point in asking things like "VERY strong natural talent" as these things are very difficult to quantify: there are so many variables that comprise someone's viability for research that, in all but the extreme cases, there isn't any way to say that someone is just 'born with it'.

For now, don't concern yourself with whether or not you have to work hard: do as much work as you feel you need to, and don't pay attention to the amount of time other people spend understanding problems. If you're able to get the grades, you're able to show graduate schools that you at least fit part of their application standard - someone that is able to put in the required work to get a high enough grade. There are also lots of other things that will be considered, however.
 
  • #3
AnIntegral said:
I know that there are hundreds of posts exactly like this but posting my own just seems more satisfying. I am an undergrad sophmore at a pretty big university. I am majoring in mathematics. I've finished single variable, multi variable calculus, lower division linear algebra, probability, combinatorics, and diff eqs with all a's and b's. I'm currently in an into to proofs class and plan on getting at least a b.

By the time i graduate i plan on having completed abstract algebra, analysis, ud linear algebra, and a few other electives that interest me (number theory, topology, etc). I'm also doing a physics minor purely for interest.

with the proofs class i am in right now i am finding myself putting A LOT of work into it. more than I expected. i know that i must do well in this class to succeed in any further math classes. To me, mathematics is absolutely amazing and I would rather do nothing else. However, I am worried as a enter more rigorous courses that success is not entirely, but more than ever, dependent on creativity rather than interest and determination. I know that these usually go together but I guess what I'm getting at is to ask whether or not you think i have a shot at grad school.

I plan on graduating with ~3.6 and hopefully a few research experiences. i am a female which might give me a slight preference (even though giving preferences for things like that is just stupid, i guess i might as well try to benefit from it). As of right now I really don't ever want to stop studying mathematics, ever in my life. I don't want a real job, a lot of money, kids,, family, none of it. I really just want to use my life to learn as much as I can. Anyways to conclude, I guess my question is although I am in general pretty good at math I feel like compared to some of my peers my natural mathematical talent is a little lacking. I have to study more and try harder. Are motivation and interest enough, or is something like a math PhD only attainable to those with motivation, interest, and a VERY strong natural mathematical talent?

I have an acquaintance who is doing their PhD in financial maths and he basically said that its more perspiration than inspiration (something that Thomas Edison said about inventing).

As far as research goes you are typically there to create an original contribution. It doesn't have to be in same league as say Einsteins 1905 paper (also remember how long he thought about and worked on that for to put that into context), but you will have a supervisor who's experience can be used to help guide you in the right direction: ie you are not expected to be a genius.

I believe that if you pursue your studies with the tenacity and dedication to that of most mathematicians you will find one day that you have become that very same person.
 
  • #4
Read Tao's career advice:

http://terrytao.wordpress.com/career-advice/

In particular, read this one:

http://terrytao.wordpress.com/career-advice/does-one-have-to-be-a-genius-to-do-maths/

One thing I would say is you might need a slight adjustment in perspective. Don't "plan on getting at least a B." Plan on getting an A. Graduate school admissions in pure math is very competitive (as I'm finding out now). Of course, on the other hand, don't fret so much over grades that you freak out if you get a B. A balanced outlook is best, although maybe it's not easy to obtain.

It also helps my motivation to read about mathematicians. On the one hand, reading how von Neumann could do crazy calculations in his head very quickly is cool but almost depressing since I am not talented in that way. On the other hand, you have stuff like Grothendieck (who revolutionized algebraic geometry a few decades ago and is kind of the epitome of the "crazy genius" image in mathematics) saying essentially that he thought many of his peers had more talent than he did, but he was more successful simply because of how much thought he put into things.
 
  • #5


As a fellow scientist and mathematician, I can relate to your passion for mathematics and your determination to pursue a PhD in the field. It is clear that you have a strong interest and motivation for mathematics, and that is a crucial factor in being successful in grad school. However, I want to assure you that natural mathematical talent is not the only factor that determines success in a PhD program. While it certainly helps, hard work, determination, and a strong work ethic can also lead to success in the field.

In fact, many successful mathematicians have admitted that they were not necessarily the most naturally talented, but they worked hard and were determined to achieve their goals. It is also important to remember that everyone has their own strengths and weaknesses, and what may come easily to some may require more effort for others. This does not mean that you are not capable of succeeding in a PhD program.

Your plan to graduate with a 3.6 GPA and have research experiences is a great foundation for your grad school application. As for your concern about creativity being more important in rigorous courses, it is true that creativity is important in mathematics, but it is something that can be developed and honed through practice and exposure to different problems and concepts. So do not let that discourage you.

As for the issue of being a female in a male-dominated field, I understand your concerns, but I want to remind you that your gender should not define your capabilities in mathematics. There are many successful female mathematicians and you can certainly be one of them.

In conclusion, I believe that with your interest, determination, and hard work, you have a strong chance of succeeding in grad school and achieving your goal of constantly learning and studying mathematics. Keep pushing yourself and never doubt your abilities. Good luck on your journey!
 

1. What is the average time it takes to complete a math PhD program?

The average time it takes to complete a math PhD program is typically 5-6 years. However, this can vary depending on the individual's research progress and the requirements of their specific program.

2. What are some common application requirements for math PhD programs?

Some common application requirements for math PhD programs include a strong undergraduate background in mathematics, letters of recommendation, GRE scores, and a personal statement outlining the applicant's research interests and goals.

3. Can I pursue a math PhD with a bachelor's degree in a different field?

While it is possible, it is not typically recommended to pursue a math PhD with a bachelor's degree in a different field. Most programs require a strong foundation in mathematics, and it may be necessary to take additional coursework to catch up before beginning the program.

4. What types of career opportunities are available with a math PhD?

A math PhD can open up a variety of career opportunities, including academia, industry research, government agencies, and consulting. Many graduates also go on to work in data analysis, finance, or computer science fields.

5. How important is research experience for getting into a math PhD program?

Research experience is highly valued and can greatly increase your chances of being accepted into a math PhD program. It not only demonstrates your interest and dedication to the field, but also provides you with valuable skills and knowledge that will be beneficial during the program.

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