PRIMES: Jin-Woo Bryan Oh's Story


Mathematics is the most pure subject that a human can study: It only requires intuition and logic. That is why I love mathematics, for it always make sense. So the first thing I did as I entered high school was founding a math club. Soon after establishing and raising its awareness, many students joined and became members, and we participated in many math competitions such as AMC. In the beginning, the competitions were a great experience. However, I slowly got tired and bored of them. They grew to be tedious; nothing really changed. Rather than having a solid understanding of mathematics, one only needed the skills to solve questions quickly to do well in the competitions. As my affection toward math slowly decreased, I encountered PRIMES.

The great mathematician Georg Cantor said “The essence of mathematics lies in its freedom.” PRIMES helped me realize and understand this. At PRIMES, I was fortunate to have met Rik, who is my mentor. He helped me with one of the more famous open problems in combinatorics, Conway’s thrackle conjecture. It was a great time to explore the mysterious and unexplored world of thrackle, and I was able to experience the joy and freedom that underlies mathematics. I could think freely of anything on the thrackle; we were even able to make connections to ideas that were never related to thrackle before. Newly-learned and newly-developed terms effected me to think deeply because learning became interesting again. It was a great time. We proved and made conjectures on the thrackle, and it was one of the greatest times of my life.

Although my experiences at PRIMES were fun, they were also tough. Solving problems takes a really long time. For instance, the conjecture that I was working on for 5 month proved to be false. As in part of any learning process, failure and disappointment occur quite often, but it helped me to be a more patient and dedicated student. PRIMES was the toughest and the best mathematics program that I took. It helped me to be more passionate about mathematics, and with this new-found drive, more opportunities became available. More important, I am so grateful that through PRIMES I was able to learn more about myself..

Bryan Oh worked on the project Towards generalizing thrackles to arbitrary graphs under the mentorship of Rik Sengupta.




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