Ideas

Explore firsthand accounts of research and questions posed by IAS scientists and scholars. From art history to string theory, from moral anthropology to the long-term fate of the universe, contributions span the last decade to the research of today.

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.

John Urschel, Member in the School of Mathematics, is an applied mathematician/theoretical computer scientist as well as a former professional football player, who spent three seasons with the Baltimore Ravens. Urschel retired from the NFL in 2017...

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.

Ask yourself this question: Can one hear the shape of a drum?

In this episode of Scholar Spotlight, mathematician and number theorist Terrence Blackman discusses his quest to expand understanding in the realm of spectroscopy. Learn about the strides Terrence is making in both spectral geometry and in surfacing the important work of African American mathematicians through his upcoming book showcasing their contributions to the field.

In 2020–21, Allen Yuan, Visitor in the School of Mathematics and a recent graduate from MIT, is studying problems in homotopy theory and algebraic topology.


How do you describe your work to friends and family?

I like to give a simple...

The twenty-sixth annual Women and Mathematics (WAM) Program, “Topics in Geometric Analysis,” was held May 18–24, 2019, at the Institute for Advanced Study.

Participants explored dynamic shapes and surfaces, along with the equations that describe...

Knots and Quantum Theory

Much of the theory of knots is best understood in the framework of 20th- and 21st-century developments in quantum physics. In other words, what really fascinates me are not the knots per se but the connections between the knots and quantum physics.

Mathematics in Mesopotamia

During my stay at the Institute, I studied little-known but amazing Old Babylonian tablets. These tablets show that the ancient scribes developed sophisticated tools for writing complex mathematical expressions and thought deeply about the nature of an equation.

Race After Technology

Like everyone who lives in a heavily policed neighborhood, I grew up with a keen sense of being watched. Family, friends, and neighbors—all of us caught up in a carceral web, in which other people’s safety and freedom are predicated on our containment.

The Idea of Wartime

Politicians and other leaders have regularly framed the current global health crisis as a period of “wartime.” In this 2012 article, Mary Dudziak, Member (2007–08) in the School of Social Science, examines the meaning of “wartime,” investigating the temporal element in warfare and the ways war structures our conception of time.

Q&A with Natalie Paquette

Meet Natalie Paquette, a mathematical physicist in the School of Natural Sciences. "I like to think about the many bright spots in my day when I feel that I finally learn or understand something properly, get a satisfying answer to a computation, or become excited about a new idea." 

Antiquities in the Dining Hall

Hanging on the walls of Simons Hall are four late antique mosaics. Their migration from the floors of private houses in a Near Eastern city under Roman rule to a research institute in North America is a story of affluence, oblivion, and rediscovery.