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Math Grad School

  1. Mar 2, 2010 #1
    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?
  2. jcsd
  3. Mar 2, 2010 #2
  4. Mar 2, 2010 #3


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    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.
  5. Mar 4, 2010 #4


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    Read Tao's career advice:


    In particular, read this one:


    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.
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