PRIMES: Testimonials

>Testimonials from 2013 PRIMES students

>Testimonials from 2012 PRIMES students

>Testimonials from 2011 PRIMES students

>Testimonials from parents of PRIMES students

>Testimonials from RSI students of Professor Etingof

 

2013 PRIMES students

Leigh Marie Braswell

Though my day-to-day work and correspondence with my mentor brought me hours of entertainment and joy, I saw the culmination of my efforts when I presented at the PRIMES conference and co-wrote a paper. PRIMES gave me the knowledge, confidence, and experience necessary to continue researching in mathematics. Everyone with an interest in problem-solving would benefit enormously from participation in such an excellent program. If you want to appreciate the beauty of mathematics by creating and solving new problems, I highly recommend applying!

Leigh Marie Braswell worked on the project The Cookie Monster Problem under the mentorship of Dr. Tanya Khovanova. Read Leigh Marie's story

Boryana Doyle

My experience in PRIMES has been amazing; I did not really know what to expect since I had no previous experience with anything like this, but the hard-work and surprises were all pleasant. I enjoyed discussions with my mentors, Maxim Imakaev and Geoff Fudenberg, about my project and related work in the lab. Exchanging ideas and questions was an integral component of making progress on my project. Moreover, my mentors and other lab members were very useful resources for technical questions; a few minutes of help can save hours of confusion. Because of my participation in PRIMES, I am now considering a career in research.

Boryana Doyle worked on the project Chromatin organization: from polymer loops to topological domains under the mentorship of Geoffrey Fudenberg and Maxim Imakaev. Read Boryana's story

Kavish Gandhi

PRIMES has been an invaluable experience for me, and most definitely would be an exceptional experience for any high school student interested in mathematics. There is no doubt that it is hard; research does not come easily or quickly, but rather requires hours upon hours of struggle. However, doing research is something that every mathematically-inclined student should be exposed to, and the PRIMES program does an extraordinary job of introducing and enveloping you in the research experience. I cannot laud it highly enough; the mentors are outstanding, the projects are great, the support is exceptional, the experience is phenomenal. Oh, and remember to never trust a Sith lord, and may the Math be with you.

Kavish Gandhi, together with Noah Golowich, worked on the project Inequalities and partition regularity of linear homogenous equations under the mentorship of Laszlo Lovasz. Read Kavish's story

Ying Gao

What I do with PRIMES is exciting in a completely different way from all the math I've done in competitions and classes. The things about research that were intimidating at first – working with a new and rather esoteric topic, having so many directions to go in, never knowing when I'd get a result, never being done – turned out to be some of things that made the math so beautiful and the results so rewarding. Through my project I've found an interest in an area of combinatorics that I hadn't even known about before; the support and resources that the program and my mentor provided were tremendously beneficial to that end. I've also learned how to write a paper and give a math talk, both of which are very important. To anyone who likes math and wants to be able to conduct research: PRIMES will definitely help make that happen..

Ying Gao worked on the project Depths of posets ordered by refinement under the mentorship of Sergei Bernstein.

Noah Golowich

Pursuing mathematical research can be quite challenging, especially when things appear so complicated that it seems impossible to make any progress. However, Professor Jacob Fox selected an appropriate and intriguing problem, and our mentor Laszlo Lovasz taught us the importance of being organized and trying to look at things in a clear way. With their guidance, my partner and I were able to make progress. When we finally proved the result that was our original goal, it was very rewarding. Furthermore, our method of solution inspired new directions of research that became the core of our project. I am very thankful to the PRIMES program and all the PRIMES staff for providing me with this great opportunity..

Noah Golowich, together with Kavish Gandhi, worked on the project Inequalities and partition regularity of linear homogenous equations under the mentorship of Laszlo Lovasz. Read Noah's story

Ravi Jagadeesan

My excellent experience at the Canada-USA Mathcamp motivated me to join the PRIMES program. The decision to do so was probably one of the best decisions of my life. PRIMES has allowed me to appreciate the monumental differences between math Olympiads, more advanced mathematical learning, and mathematical research. I enjoyed my first year in PRIMES greatly, and I was pleased to be able to participate again this year.

During his second year at PRIMES, Ravi Jagadeesan worked on the project Belyi functions with prescribed monodromy under the mentorship of Akhil Mathew. Read Ravi's story

John Long

My mentor was very helpful in explaining to me the background and previous research. I knew little about purifying selection, genomic regions, the Unix command line, and scripting languages, but with the help of my mentor, I was able to learn all of these quickly and painlessly. Understanding where my project fit in with the rest of the research also gave me a greater appreciation for my project, and the material was interesting in its own right.

John Long worked on the project Evidence of purifying selection in humans under the mentorship of Angela Yen. Read John's story

Bryan Oh

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.

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

Ritesh Ragavender

MIT PRIMES USA is an excellent program for those with mathematical curiosity. All the mentors and organizers do an exceptional job in organizing the conference, providing general assistance, and in helping young students realize their mathematical potential. The long hours and dedication were certainly worth it, and the last six months have been the best of my life. I strongly recommend MIT PRIMES USA to any student interested in mathematics.

Ritesh Ragavender worked on the project q-analogues of symmetric polynomials and nilHecke algebras under the mentorship of Alex Ellis. Read Ritesh's story

Raj Raina

When I first heard that I was selected for PRIMES-USA, I was a bit intimidated; how could I, a student who had so little experience in math research, possibly contribute anything relevant to the world of mathematics? My fear was quickly dismissed as my mentor Andrey guided me through the beautifully complex world of Ramsey Theory. Together, we made progress on branches of Ramsey Theory that had largely been undiscovered. Although the work was certainly difficult, it was even more rewarding; the moment when you solve something that no one else had considered, when you find some order in the apparent chaos of math, when you put your brick into the wall of mathematical contributions, is undoubtedly an unparalleled feeling.

Raj Raina worked on the project Minimum degrees of minimal Ramsey graphs under the mentorship of Andrey Grinshpun. Read Raj's story

Ajay Saini

When I originally started working on my project, I thought I knew what direction the project would take throughout the process and had an end goal in sight. However, my research took an unexpected turn almost every step of the way. During our weekly meetings, my mentor and I always discussed alternative approaches to the project based off of current findings. New observations suggesting unexpected ideas would often come up, causing me to rethink my approach and make the necessary adjustments to what I was investigating. Consequently, I soon found myself immersed in an idea that had been scarcely touched upon in my research field. Knowing that I was researching a topic of interest that others had not significantly worked on made the prospect of discovering something new all the more exciting.

Ajay Saini worked on the project Modeling the opinion dynamics of a social network under the mentorship of Dr. Natasha Markuzon. Read Ajay's story

Gabby Studt

The relevant literature to my topic is somewhat technical, but [my mentor] was able to pose thought-provoking questions so that our meetings were always productive and enlightening. Although it can feel daunting to confront a research problem, I’ve found quite a bit of excitement in the small steps that I’ve made so far. Participating in PRIMES has made me even more eager to study other areas in math, and to collaborate and discuss my work with peers as well as those with more experience. That's why I think that anyone with a similar passion for math would also enjoy this program greatly. If you love math, you should apply, even if you don't think you will get in!

Gabby Studt worked on the project Higher Bruhat order on Weyl groups of Type B under the mentorship of Daniel Thompson. Read Gabby's story

Nathan Wolfe

Coming into the computer science program last year I knew some Java, and not much else. My project last year was based on working in an experimental language that was different from anything I had ever seen before. At first it seemed to me like learning it would be a big challenge. It turned out, though, that my mentor had everything planned out. My partner and I ended up being able to learn the new language easily, since our mentor was willing to put in a lot of time at weekly meetings to help us understand new concepts.

Nathan Wolfe, together with Istvan Chung, worked on the project A collaborative editor in Ur/Web under the mentorship of Benjamin Barenblat. Read Nathan's story

Junho Won

I really loved the fact that I met with my graduate mentor, Chiheon, almost every week. We discussed so many problems and cases leading to some original results, but it was also simply awesome to build a strong personal relationship with someone who guided me so thoroughly and patiently through abstract concepts, and sometimes, just chatted (in Korean!) about random things. Also, given that combinatorial mathematics was rather new to me, he showed me why graph theory – the field for my project – is quite beautiful and initiated me to study topological graph theory. The problems we worked on were very simple-looking and yet sinisterly difficult due to the virtual non-existence of organized tools to tackle them (which were relatively young), but coming up with my own insights and ways to resolve problems was the day’s delight.

Junho Won worked on the project Highly non-convex graph crossing sequences under the mentorship of Chiheon Kim. Read Junho's story

William Wu

From late-night edits to weekly meetings, PRIMES plunged me head-first into real-world research. I had a taste of the entire research process, from the conception of the idea to writing and publishing a research paper. I was fortunate to be assigned to a group with a wonderful partner and supportive mentors, not to mention an enjoyable and intriguing project. My favorite part about research is the creative aspect of the problem solving process, as computer science questions can often be answered in a multitude of ways. I was excited to see how the mechanisms I came up with compared with our existing ones. At times we would experience a “researcher’s block,” where the project would remain untouched for weeks. Other times, ideas would come one after another. All the while, everything had to be meticulously documented, from the thought process to the finished mechanism. I’m looking forward to another rewarding year with PRIMES, performing research once-reserved for college and post-college students.

William Wu, together with Nicolaas Kaashoek, worked on the project How to teach a class to grade itself under the mentorship of Christos Tzamos and Matt Weinberg.

 

2012 PRIMES students

Nihal Gowravaram

At first, I was skeptical; how could I, a high school sophomore, conduct mathematical research? Soon, however, PRIMES made me realize that this goal was not out of sight. Working with my brilliant mentor Dr. Joel Brewster Lewis, I began an extensive study of pattern avoidance, a branch of combinatorics, with my research partner Ravi. Though at first I was intimidated by some of the background reading, with reassurance from my mentor, I continued to persist onwards, reading a single paper dozens of times for hours or even days. Math research problems are not engineered like competition problems, and so, I initially found myself frustrated. However, I soon learned to grow patient, as the process of mathematical inquiry itself grew to satisfy me, and that eventual “Aha” moment was all the more satisfying.

Nihal Gowravaram, together with Ravi Jagadeesan, worked on the project Beyond alternating permutations: Pattern avoidance in Young diagrams and tableaux under the mentorship of Dr. Joel Lewis. Read Nihal's story

Steven Homberg

I have always found both mathematics and computer science beautiful in similar but subtly different ways. The structure of some abstract math concept or the logical flow of a computer procedure each carry the same flavor of appeal to me, and one often echoes an instance of the other. Despite this correspondence, the true extent of the fundamental similarities of the two never struck home until given the opportunity to conduct research through the PRIMES program. Before, computer science was mostly writing programs and math was largely abstractions lacking context in the real world. After my first year in PRIMES, the distinction is not quite as clear as it was before; the project, in merging two of my greatest interests, served to enhance each.

Steven Homberg, together with Eli Sadovnik, worked on the project Improving the efficiency of fault-tolerant distributed shared-memory algorithms under the mentorship of Dr. Peter Musial. Read Steven's story

Ravi Jagadeesan

At the beginning of the PRIMES program in January last year, I was mildly nervous that I would not be able to discover anything new. However, such fears were certainly unmerited. During the first few meetings, my mentor Joel Lewis provided my partner Nihal Gowravaram and me with background readings to become familiar with the common techniques. Within two months, we were formulating some of our own conjectures based on computer simulations, and before long, we were even able to find proofs of some of these conjectures. Throughout the process, Joel offered incredibly helpful insight, guidance, and support.

Ravi Jagadeesan, together with Nihal Gowravaram, worked on the project Beyond alternating permutations: Pattern avoidance in Young diagrams and tableaux under the mentorship of Dr. Joel Lewis. Read Ravi's story

Saarik Kalia

My project this past year has given me a whole different experience because this time I was working with a partner. I think when we first saw our project this year, we were both completely baffled, for one thing, just by trying to understand the project, but even more importantly, trying to conceive of some way that we could possibly make any progress on it. I think if I showed myself in January all the progress we’ve made on the project by now, he would be shocked that that work could have been our own. Working with a partner has been great. Having a second head to run your thoughts by is immensely helpful. It forces you to check every counterexample. It forces you to figure out how to properly explain what you’re trying to say. And it gives you a new perspective and a new way of looking at everything you do.

Saarik Kalia, together with Michael Zanger-Tishler, worked on the project Schmidt games and a family of anormal numbers under the mentorship of Tue Ly. Read Saarik's story

Skanda Koppula

PRIMES gave me an excellent opportunity to conduct real world research. Research in Computational medicine requires study of various disciplines such as Biology, Mathematics, and Computer Science. Working with my mentors not only gave me the unique opportunity to study the subjects, but also taught me the importance of dedication and perseverance that is required to conduct good research. Working on PRIMES project is a unique opportunity for any high school student. The experience is unmatched in every aspect. I strongly recommend PRIMES to any high school student who is interested in Computer Science research.

Skanda Koppula worked on the project Prediction-based Bayesian network analysis of gene sets for genome-wide association and expression studies under the mentorship of Dr. Gil Alterovitz and Dr. Amin Zollanvari. Read Skanda's story

Ashwin Murali

My mentors introduced us to the basics of simulating organic polymers demonstrating how their behavior and structure is similar to the behavior and path of random walks. It is very fascinating how complex organic molecules’ behavior can be approximated with such a simple mathematical construct. Working at the intersection of programming, biology, and mathematics, we learned methods of simulating organic polymers, a technique applied toward our individual research problems, one of which evolved into my work recently presented at the Cold Spring Harbor Conference on the Dynamic Organization of Nuclear Function. The experience of presenting a poster was surreal and I owe this experience to my mentors, my teachers, and the PRIMES program. To say the PRIMES is life changing is an understatement.

Ashwin Murali worked on the project Global positioning of interphase chromosomes mediated by local chromatin interactions under the mentorship of Geoffrey Fudenberg and Maxim Imakaev. Read Ashwin's story

Alex Sekula

Some of the most exciting times that I had while working on the project were my meetings with my mentor: I would come to these meetings with several new ideas for the direction of our project, and we would then use them to form new ideas to better tackle the problem. Sometimes, some of these ideas wouldn't work but at some other times, they would lead to a key progress in our project. Regardless of the outcomes though, I was always leaving our meetings with so much energy and enthusiasm to code and see an impact on our project.

Alex Sekula worked on the project Natural language processing for spoken dialog under the mentorship of William Li. Read Alex's story

Jonathan Tidor

Research can be intimidating at first; there are so many directions to pursue and some might not lead anywhere while others might be too difficult to make any progress on. One of the most important things that PRIMES taught me about research was to always have a short-term goal. Knowing what you want to prove in the long run is great, but you can get lost easily. If you always know the next little thing you want to do there's always something to work on and you keep making progress, bit by bit. PRIMES is a wonderful opportunity for anyone who loves math. Even though the thought of doing actual research can be a bit scary at first, I found it to be a wonderful experience.

Jonathan Tidor, together with Rohil Prasad, worked on the project Staged self-assembly under the mentorship of Jesse Geneson. Read Jonathan's story

Dai Yang

The leap from competition math to research is one that causes many to stumble. This was both one of my fears about and one of my reasons for applying for PRIMES. I feared that I would be one to stumble, that my inexperience beyond math Olympiad would make a fool of me. But I also hoped that this undertaking might teach me how to make the leap gracefully and successfully. Luckily I chose to believe in the latter, and I was correct. My mentor Tanya Khovanova showed me that the gulf was wide but not impassable. Although it took far longer to make progress on halving lines and underlying graphs than on an USAMO problem, the spark of joy upon discovering something new - something that possibly no one else had noticed - was more than enough wind under my newly-grown wings. Who knew that two words, two words briefly written en passant in an earlier paper, could erupt into a plethora of new questions and answers about halving lines? Who knew that graph theory, an old companion from the competition days, would come to visit me time and time again during this journey? Truly PRIMES was an adventure full of worthwhile surprises and lessons. I have but few words of advice for younger students. I looked. I ran. I jumped. Will you?

Dai Yang worked on the project Halving lines and underlying graphs under the mentorship of Dr. Tanya Khovanova.

Michael Zanger-Tishler

Most adults look back at high school and think about their prom or the homecoming football game as the highlights of their youth. Not me. The best part of my high school experience has undoubtedly been conducting research with PRIMES. Nothing else I have done in my life so far has changed the way I think quite the way PRIMES has. My mentor, Tue, met with me and my research partner once a week and did so for as long as we wanted. He met with us on weekends, over the summer, and whenever we needed the time. He conveyed a love of math that was contagious. PRIMES is a unique experience. It is not easy, but it is rewarding beyond belief and definitely is something I will appreciate for years.

Michael Zanger-Tishler, together with Saarik Kalia, worked on the project Schmidt games and a family of anormal numbers under the mentorship of Tue Ly. Read Michael's story

Peijin Zhang

My first few weeks starting in the PRIMES program were definitely some of the most difficult and overwhelming experiences I’ve had, but the challenge had piqued my interest, and I was inspired to succeed. Over the next nine months, with much help from my mentors and other members of the lab, I was able to shakily dive into the forefront of bioinformatics research, or the application of computer algorithms on large amounts of biological data such as gene expression studies or protein sequencing. In the span of nine months, I’ve performed analysis on a cohort of critical-care ICU patients for the prediction of hospital acquired illnesses, developed a program that will soon be on the forefront of clinical genomics, and identified several promising target regions for new drugs to counter MDR-TB.

Peijin Zhang worked on the project Identifying Clostridium difficile in the ICU using Bayesian networks under the mentorship of Dr. Gil Alterovitz and Dr. Jeremy Warner. Read Peijin's story

 

2011 PRIMES students

Photo of Surya Bhupatiraju

Surya Bhupatiraju

It was always really satisfying to be able to work on problems that no one else had attempted. Every time I walked into the computer lab at MIT and started writing the programs, I never wanted to leave. I loved the feeling of being able to sit and think about problems without having anything else in my mind. It was a stress-free environment, and I thrived here. PRIMES is an excellent program - it’s a remarkable way to start research at a young age with the help of incredible professionals and mentors who love the math and science that you do, and will help you learn more and more. I’m very glad I chose to come to PRIMES, and it has truly changed my life as a student and a mathematician.

Surya Bhupatiraju, together with William Kuszmaul and Jason Li, worked on the project  Lower central series of associative algebras in characteristic p under the supervision of Pavel Etingof and David Jordan. Read Surya's story

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Christina Chen

Mathematical research is such a worthwhile and valuable experience. It is very different from problem solving because it does not have the security of a known solution. Sometimes, you are worried about not obtaining anything particularly useful or interesting. However, in the end, when you do, that feeling is empowering because you have determined something nobody ever has before. During the process, you both acquire new knowledge and the experience of confronting the inevitable setbacks of such a project, which can then be applied to other subjects.

Christina Chen worked on the project Hiding behind and hiding inside under the mentorship of Tanya Khovanova. Read Christina's story

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Fengning Ding

PRIMES is by far the best math or science program I have ever participated in. Unlike transient summer camps or programs devoted solely to competitions, PRIMES concentrates on real mathematics – an extended inquiry of the unknown. By having students spend a few months instead of a few weeks exploring unsolved as opposed to solved problems, PRIMES instills in students a far greater comprehension of mathematics than any other program. Before PRIMES, I have done numerous math competitions and read many advanced textbooks, but PRIMES gave me a special intimacy with abstract math that competitions and textbooks could not. Working at the frontier of mathematics, I gained not only a better understanding of abstract algebra but also an invaluable insight into mathematical research and the mathematical community.

Fengning Ding worked on the project Infinitesimal Cherednik algebras under the mentorship of Sasha Tsymbaliuk. Read Fengning's story

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Dash Elhauge

Computational Biology is the sort of thing one only gets to experience through a program like PRIMES. For programmers (like me), computational biology research is inherently satisfying because it lets us flex our programming skills to bridge that gap between abstraction and real world dynamics that only we can. Not only that, but it allows you to think about biology not as a memorized mass of terms and processes, but rather as a sophisticated system predicated on subtle balance. It's the sort of style of thinking you simply can't find anywhere else.

Dash Elhauge worked on the project Modeling the role of cell fusion in cancer development under the mentorship of Christopher McFarland. Read Dash's story

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Caroline Ellison

At first, I was definitely nervous; I didn't think I would find anything at all, and I didn't think I could really write a paper or give a math talk. It turns out I was wrong on all counts. Coming from a math contest background, research has been very different. I still sort of expect everything to have an elegant solution that can be found in a half hour or less, and I have to remind myself that isn't always the case. Things are often messy, but when I do find something that might be interesting or useful, the fact that it exists at all among the chaos makes it doubly beautiful.

Caroline Ellison worked on the project Polynomial coefficients over finite fields under the mentorship of Giorgia Fortuna. Read Caroline's story

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Xiaoyu He

Math research is deep and slow: you spend all your time thinking. We tested dozens, if not hundreds, of conjectures, and worked out a mind-boggling number of small cases. Each time I thought I had reached a complete solution, new problems would arise and a new layer of complexity developed. Without solving the original problem, I was able to develop a rich, complex understanding of the system that was more than worthwhile. A whole sub-theory emerged from the study of one specific case. I am happy a combinatorics project was chosen for me because combinatorics combines the physical intuition of real-world systems with the more elusive abstractions of other fields of mathematics.

Xiaoyu He worked on the project Rotor-Routers under the mentorship of Tanya Khovanova. Read Xiaoyu's story

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William Kuszmaul

The most important thing that my mentor David Jordan ever told me was that math research is confusing, but that the key is to grab onto the moments when you feel like you understand a little something, to the little victories, and hold them. When the paper was finally finished, we'd proven much of what we wanted to prove, and David said that our theorems were surprisingly original. It gave me an incredible feeling to have the paper come together in the final days of it being written, and I came to cherish the feeling of just putting everything in life aside and "primesing" for the rest of a day.

William Kuszmaul, together with Surya Bhupatiraju and Jason Li, worked on the project  Lower central series of associative algebras in characteristic p under the supervision of Pavel Etingof and David Jordan. Read William's story

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Ziv Scully

I recommend PRIMES to virtually anybody who loves math. Research is perhaps the most exciting thing about mathematics, but it's difficult to go at it alone with no prior experience. Having a mentor to suggest a possible problem, discuss ideas with and provide direction if those ideas run dry is what PRIMES offers, and it turned me from someone who was curious about research into someone who was capable of doing it. There are very few places where high school students have this type of opportunity. Try it!

Ziv Scully worked on the project Progress on the parallel chip-firing problem under the mentorship of Yan Zhang. Read Ziv's story

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Dong-Gil Shin

I came to be interested in computational biology as it intrigued me to be able to apply mathematical methods in a field like biology and combine the rigor of mathematics with the more tangible applicability of biology. In my project, I studied a model of DNA chromosome condensation using molecular dynamics simulations. Simulating a system with mathematical models and analyzing its consequences in biological contexts were challenging and highly fascinating. At PRIMES, it was great to be exposed to, and to learn the intricacies of, research using powerful computers. My mentors were tremendously helpful in providing me the necessary background knowledge and tools in biological/polymer physics and programming in order to pursue research. PRIMES has been a stimulating learning experience for me, and I would highly recommend it to those interested in mathematics or applied mathematics.

Dong-Gil Shin worked on the project Scaffold Assisted Chromosome Condensation: Molecular Dynamics Simulations under the mentorship of Geoffrey Fudenberg and Maxim Imakaev.

Photo of Michael Zhang

Michael Zhang

A few things surprised me over the course of doing mathematics research. The first is how collaborative mathematics as a practice is. The image that I had conjured up of math research prior to PRIMES was the image of Wiles in his attic, working alone for 7 years. This was shown to be an anomaly to me over the course of the project, as I worked with an excellent partner, Yongyi, and had long discussions with my mentor and partner in which all sides offered contributions.

Michael Zhang, together with Yongyi Chen, worked on the project Poisson homology in characteristic p under the mentorship of David Jordan. Read Michael's story

 

 

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