PRIMES: Akhil Mathew's Story
How did you get interested in research mathematics?
I was always interested in thinking about mathematics, from reading various books on the subject as a child. I thought it would be fun to think about unsolved problems. The RSI program gave me such an opportunity.
What role did your mentors play in developing that interest?
The mentorship at MIT is excellent. The overall expertise of my mentor Dustin Clausen was amazing; I learned a great deal of mathematical lore ranging from bits of category theory to universal constructions in algebraic geometry from our daily conversations during the RSI program. Professor Etingof has a remarkable ability to choose problems at a level designed for both accessibility and intellectual challenge. Most of all, his active interest in mentoring students at multiple levels is admirable.
What were you able to achieve?
I was able to prove certain results about certain newly defined families of categories, roughly that they had "generically" similar properties to well-known categories.
How does feel to do mathematical research?
Doing mathematical research can be really fun. Being absorbed in a problem that takes weeks for a newcomer to understand is a highly enjoyable experience. It led me to think about things far more deeply than I was accustomed to doing for standard coursework or outside reading.
Should high school students with similar interests come to PRIMES?
Working on research projects was by far the most intellectually stimulating part of my high school days. I learned both about the process of how mathematics is done and the culture of mathematics. I additionally became aware of how much more there was to mathematics than I had previously been exposed to, and how much fun it could be. I recommend it!
Akhil Mathew, the 3rd prize in the Intel STS and 3rd in mathematics at ISEF.