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.

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.

The Institute for Advanced Study distributed $21,742.50 in stipends for mathematics and $10,000 for theoretical physics during the academic year 1935–36. Three hundred dollars, sufficient to secure entry to the United States, was awarded to the Polish mathematician Stanislaw Ulam (1909–84), who had written to John von Neumann about a problem in measure theory in 1934.

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.

Adventures of a Mathematician

The Institute for Advanced Study distributed $21,742.50 in stipends for mathematics and $10,000 for theoretical physics during the academic year 1935–36. Three hundred dollars, sufficient to secure entry to the United States, was awarded to the Polish mathematician Stanislaw Ulam (1909–84), who had written to John von Neumann about a problem in measure theory in 1934.

Q&A with Nadia Zakamska

Nadia Zakamska, returning Member in the School of Natural Sciences, is an astrophysicist studying a variety of astronomical wonders, ranging from extrasolar planets to extragalactic astronomy. Her current research focuses on long-standing puzzles in...

Karen Uhlenbeck’s Pioneering Path in Mathematics

[In high school] I remember the book by George Gamow, One, Two, Three, Infinity. I think that was my first mathematical achievement, to understand the differences in the kinds of infinities there are. I really liked that satisfaction of understanding why there was more than one kind of infinity. — Distinguished Visiting Professor Karen Uhlenbeck, the first woman to win the prestigious Abel prize

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.

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.

Q&A with John Urschel

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...

Solving the Mysteries of Deep Learning

Sanjeev Arora, Distinguished Visiting Professor in the School of Mathematics, specializes in the theory of deep learning, with an interest in natural language processing and privacy. He speaks with IAS's Joanne Lipman about why deep learning is a “black box,” and navigating ethical issues of bias and privacy.

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.