My time in Ireland has been valuable and constructive for so many different reasons. I have had the opportunity to explore Dublin, a vibrant and historic city, and to immerse myself in a new and foreign culture. There is something deeply cathartic about a change of scenery (maybe there’s a reason why so many great physicists and mathematicians have their most important epiphanies while taking a walk!) I have had the pleasure of working with a brilliant mentor who has challenged and stimulated me as a mathematician and of meeting ten other amazing Mitchell Scholars, each with such unique interests and personality. But perhaps most importantly, my experience in Ireland has given me the time and space to think. To think not only about manifolds and differential forms (although I’ve done plenty, maybe too much, of that) but to think also about more fundamental questions, like what I want to do after Ireland, what I want to do for a living, how and when I do my best work, whether research mathematics is for me.
I can’t say I’ve answered any of these questions conclusively, but I’ve come a little bit closer. I’ve learned that I need to work with people. Although my advisor is very helpful and always accessible to talk, I am the only student in my program at Trinity, and I have found that somewhat isolating (recently, I organized a weekly idea-swap with two advanced undergraduates, which has definitely helped). I have also discovered that what I like most about mathematics is the not the doing of it, per se, but all the exposition and interpretation that comes with it. I love talking about math, teaching math, debating math, and writing about math. Of course, to do all of these things, one first has to do some math, but for me, that part is a means to an end.
In light of these new thoughts, I have decided to change course slightly, at least for now. I have elected to take a course at Trinity on math education. In the second half of this course, students intern with math teachers in public grade schools near Dublin. More recently, I was asked to assist in the development of Ireland’s first national computer science competition, which is currently being organized by folks at Google’s Dublin headquarters, as a member of the newly-formed “problem council.” Most drastically for me, I have decided to spend the next few years teaching middle school math. I am in the process of applying to several apprenticeship programs in Boston.
I am both nervous and excited about my new plans for the future. In some ways, they are a radical departure from the rather linear college-grad school-academia trajectory I had always counted on taking. But at this stage, teaching feels like a very natural next step, and I am very excited for the future.