A survival guide for young mathematicians written by Pete Casazza has been doing the rounds today. It contains an experienced mathematician’s advice for young mathematicians starting out on their careers and unsure of what to expect or what’s expected of them.
Over eighteen pages, Dr. Casazza tells it how it is on subjects such as setting goals for your career, self-confidence, competition versus cooperation, and the fraught problem of taking mathematicians out to dinner. His experience of academia seems to be very different to mine, with lots of unapproachably eminent elders and jockeying for social status, but maybe I’m just oblivious to these things.
Each section is sprinkled with poignant and relevant quotes and, while the author initially seems quite disillusioned with high-falutin’ Big Mathematicians and the many distractions a working mathematician faces, he tries his best to dispel misconceptions and encourage the reader to carry on through the tough times. He is passionate about maths and ends on a positive note:
Mathematics is not a matter of life and death.
It is much more important than that.
So if you are not yet one of us, come join in. Lighten up, chill out, relax… it’s just mathematics and you are just a person. Enjoy the treasure hunt. Someone asked me once if I planned on doing mathematics my whole life. I gave the obvious answer:
“Of course not. I plan on saving the last 10 minutes to reminisce.”