This installment of our "Paths to Math" video series features Patrick Shafto, Member in the Institute’s School of Mathematics and Professor of Mathematics and Computer Science at Rutgers University. Learn how Patrick’s unexpected start studying physical therapy at Northeastern eventually led to his current research, which explores the intersections of human and machine learning.

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School of Mathematics

When Karen Uhlenbeck was a MacArthur fellow, between 1983–88, she went on a series of incredible adventures visiting other MacArthur fellows and learning about their projects. “This was actually one of the high points of my life,” Uhlenbeck said to me, laughing. She recalls whale watching in Hawaii with Roger Payne, a trip to the Amazon to see Philip DeVries’s work with butterflies, studying lemurs in Madagascar with Pat Wright, and a Montana dinosaur dig with Jack Horner.

Mathematics Member John Urschel works on linear algebra, specifically matrix analysis. In this video, he shares his journey from the NFL to a career in mathematics, having worked on his Ph.D. at MIT during the offseason while playing for the Baltimore Ravens. Now retired from the NFL, Urschel is able to focus completely on math.

Ukrainian mathematician Svitlana Mayboroda was initially undecided on her career path. She had every intention of going into business until an opportunity presented itself to attend a mathematics graduate program in the United States.

Agustin Moreno, Member in the School of Mathematics, is exploring a restricted case of the three-body problem—a concept that considers the complex motion of three masses under the influence of a force such as gravity.

Jinyoung Park is a first-generation college graduate, and after seven years as a secondary school teacher in South Korea, she went on to earn a mathematics Ph.D. from Rutgers University. Jinyoung’s story demonstrates the importance of role models at all levels of one’s education and the fact that it is never too late to begin anew.

Sergey Cherkis, a Member in the School of Mathematics (2020–21), is currently trying to understand instantons. Unlike particles in classical mechanics, quantum particles can tunnel through barriers by traveling in imaginary time. By combining his knowledge of mathematics and physics, Sergey is working to understand this peculiar behavior. Learn more about Sergey’s path, which begins with an early interest in mathematics and physics, and hear how mathematics itself became a tool for overcoming challenges on his academic journey.

Terrence Blackman, Visitor in the School of Mathematics (2020–21), is a number theorist, who considers the question: “can one hear the shape of a drum?” Using the tools of spectral geometry, Terrence considers such questions as part of his research, which traces its roots back to Queen’s College in Guyana. Learn more about Terrence’s path, from his early interest in writing to a realization of the aesthetic and cultural significance of mathematics.

Chris Maddison, Member (2019–20) in the Institute for Advanced Study’s School of Mathematics, works on the development of methods for machine learning, with a focus on deep learning. He is an assistant professor at...

Sanjeev Arora is Distinguished Visiting Professor in the School of Mathematics at the Institute for Advanced Study. Specializing in the theory of deep learning, with an interest in natural language processing and...