SMP Week Three


All the PhDs went home from SMPosium on Sunday. I was definitely a little bit sad to see them leave. The number of people living in this dorm was cut in half, so it feels empty.

On Friday, I remember meeting some of the PhDs for the first time and none of us knew what to say! We had been given an “assignment” to meet at least three new people. The interactions were kind of awkward. What was I going to talk with these adults about for three days?!

That changed quickly. I had some serious conversations with SMP alums about graduate school and careers, some conversations about traveling and families, and also had adventures involving getting “lost” on the way to dinner with a few of them conveniently in the Dairy Queen drive through!

I met a lot of wonderful people in a very short amount of time. Even though all of the activity and scheduled events was certainly very overwhelming at times, SMPosium was absolutely worth it.

Yesterday we had another visiting colloquium speaker, Alyssa. She echoed what everyone else has told me about the math world being small:

One thing about growing up in the MAA location that I now work in is that when I was an undergrad, there was a professor I thought was really amazing. Like, the Lady Gaga of math. I kept thinking how cool it would be if he just knew my name!… Now… that same professor sends me emails– I know where he lives!

After dinner, I ended up talking to her one-on-one about my grad school fears. The longer I’m here at SMP the more sure I feel that I do not want to go to graduate school in pure mathematics. It doesn’t seem to fit my personality. At school last semester, my advisor expressed the same sentiments about me, actually– he told me of course I would be successful at it, but there might be something I would like better. I didn’t really know enough then to be able to agree or disagree, but SMP has helped me a lot with that.

I still feel like I want to and will go to graduate school. Maybe in something like Operations Research– I just learned about it last weekend from a PhD, and it seems like it fits me better. Maybe. But I am afraid. I am afraid of being burnt out from doing school ages 5-25+ nonstop, and I am afraid of missing out on “real life” by being in school instead. I also realized while talking to her that I have this image in my head that graduate school in math means sitting in a dark room by yourself, with all these numbers on a giant chalkboard over your head, trying to prove some huge scary theorem. And I’m afraid I will never be able to prove anything.

Talking to Alyssa really helped me put a name to some of these fears. She told me that whatever I choose out do, just make sure I’m doing it because I want to and not because I think other people want me to. So, I don’t actually know what I want, but if I figure it out I’ll try to take the advice.


2 thoughts on “SMP Week Three

  1. Hey! I’m really enjoying your recap of SMP (And I’m totally jealous – I miss it!).

    I also have struggled wondering whether I have the right personality type for grad school and about missing “real life.” I have really wondered whether I’m cut out for it… after deep self-reflection, I’ve decided to apply to grad school. I don’t think you should let anyone tell you your personality is right or wrong for a field – that’s for you to determine. If you’re worried about finding people who are like you, who are not the anti-social, obsessive math stereotype, I wouldn’t worry. But if you don’t want to go to grad school, you definitely shouldn’t go. I figured out that I do want to go to grad school, I’m just quite scared! If you ever want to chat about this stuff, I’d love to chat with someone going through similar thought processes!

    • I’m so happy an SMPer found my blog! :)

      SMP has given me time to do some of the self-reflection. I’m really just not that interested in pure math, definitely not enough to go to grad school for it. I was actually talking to another participant the other night (while we probably should have been doing the Lie Theory homework) about grad school and pure vs. applied math. It was really funny because she said that during the SMPosium talks, she thought the pure math talks were really awesome and just didn’t care much about the applied stuff. I was the exact opposite! I think I need more time to figure out what I want to do, but I’m beginning to narrow the list.

      Good luck with the grad school applications!! Don’t forget to contact SMPers for advice. :)

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