PRIMES: Anirudha Balasubramanian's Story
RSI exposed me to research mathematics, a rather fascinating process. Unlike the math usually done in high schools and contests, answers may be very difficult to obtain, and depth of understanding and universality of approach are much more important than speed of solution. Although the process could sometimes be frustrating, it was immensely rewarding; it's something I recommend to every high school mathematics student who gets the chance to do it. RSI also clarified my earlier conceptions of research, by showing me how much of a collaborative endeavor it is; I got a better understanding of what the mathematical community was like, and I also better understood the general mathematical terrain after my research experience.
I must point to the superb quality of mentorship I received as central to all this. Martina Balagovic, both in her inexhaustible dedication and lucidity of explanation - I have not met anyone better at explaining complicated mathematical ideas - helped me grapple with topics I couldn't have imagined vaguely understanding. Even after my project, she continued as a caring mentor and role model to me, as someone I could always write to if I had math questions. Professor Etingof's prescience in picking a tractable but dynamic problem - at the intersection of many mathematical fields - was certainly key to my mathematical enrichment and deepening appreciation for mathematics. Moreover, his commitment to his students is truly special.
From a practical standpoint, the experience taught me how to negotiate challenging mathematical texts and papers, write mathematical expositions, and present math; as such, it provided a nice preview (and headstart) into the skills necessary for a professional mathematician.
Ultimately, RSI altered my intellectual life by (further) opening mathematics to me and inspiring me to study it more; I should add that the experience also helped me get another research experience, which has further broadened my perspective.
Anirudha Balasubramanian, a semifinalist in the Siemens competition and in the Intel STS, also ranked 2nd in math in ISEF.