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From Quanta magazine (long article) https://www.quantamagazine.org/fields-medalist-akshay-venkatesh-bridges-math-and-time-20180801/ “The genius stereotype does the discipline no favors, he told Quanta. “I think it doesn’t capture all the different kinds of ways people contribute to mathematics.” ... But back when Venkatesh was a graduate student at Princeton University around the turn of the millennium, the genius myth almost derailed his budding career. His early education — which carried him to college at age 13 and graduate school three years later — neatly fits the genius narrative. But on arriving at Princeton, Venkatesh was startled to discover that “there are a lot of people who are just as good at the things you thought defined being a mathematician, like being able to learn the material or solve problems fast.” Mathematics research, with its winding paths and dead ends, was very different from the kind of math Venkatesh had excelled at in school, with its problem sets and clearly defined endpoints. Accustomed to meeting the highest of standards, he saw his dissertation as mediocre. Quietly, Venkatesh started eyeing the exit ramps, even taking a job at his uncle’s machine learning startup one summer to make sure he had a fallback option. But then a plum job offer fell in his lap: one of the prestigious C.L.E. Moore instructorships at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Clearly, his adviser must have written a glowing letter of recommendation for him — but why? Venkatesh took this question to Jordan Ellenberg, a friend and fellow mathematician. Ellenberg’s reply has stayed with Venkatesh over the years: “Sometimes, people see things in you that you don’t see.” Now 36, Venkatesh carries himself with the ease of someone who is thoroughly comfortable with his life choices. But it has taken him many years to see what other mathematicians have long seen in him. “It took me a long time to really feel satisfied with what I was doing,” he said. ... Inwardly, though, Venkatesh was struggling. “I don’t feel like I had a happy time as a graduate student,” he said. He was disturbed by the fact that Sarnak had suggested one of the key ideas in his dissertation, even though that’s not uncommon in graduate studies. “I didn’t really feel like… I had added something very original,” Venkatesh said. “I don’t think I got the sense out of graduate school that I can do research.” ... Over time, Venkatesh has come to understand that his struggles in graduate school stemmed from a lack of awareness of just what kind of mathematician he is. Unlike some mathematicians, who work intensively on a project and finish it up within months or a year, Venkatesh has found that his ideas often unfold over a much longer time frame. “You start to see that, well, a thought you had some years ago comes back and sort of has grown, because you’ve seen other things in the meantime,” he said. “It’s funny, I never would have described myself as a patient person. But that’s just how it is.” ... When I met with Venkatesh, he told me proudly that he had put up his daughter Tara’s hair in a “masterpiece” of a bun for her ballet dress rehearsal the day before. “I’ve written papers about the braid group,” he said. “Actual braids? Much harder.” ... Venkatesh is still an avid reader, although these days his book selection process usually involves simply snatching whatever looks interesting off the library shelf before his daughters drag him to the children’s section. ... He has mixed feelings about prizes, since they tend to reinforce the myth of the lone genius. And, he says, “I have gotten probably more than my fair share of them.” He was especially surprised to win the Fields Medal because much of his recent work has been highly conjectural, and the medal often goes instead to people who have solved some big well-known problem. “My work is not of that nature, nor did I attempt for it to be of that nature,” he said.”
For our mathematicians boardies :D From BBC http://m.bbc.com/news/science-environment-28739373 "An Iranian mathematician working in the US has become the first ever female winner of the celebrated Fields Medal. In a landmark hailed as "long overdue", Prof Maryam Mirzakhani was recognised for her work on complex geometry." "In becoming the very first female medallist, Prof Mirzakhani - who teaches at Stanford University in California - ends what has been a long wait for the mathematics community." "Prof Dame Frances Kirwan, a member of the medal selection committee from the University of Oxford, pointed out that despite being viewed traditionally as "a male preserve", women have contributed to mathematics for centuries. She noted that around 40% of maths undergraduates in the UK are women, but that proportion declines rapidly at PhD level and beyond." ETA: From Stanford "Mirzakhani became known to the international math scene as a teenager, winning gold medals at both the 1994 and 1995 International Math Olympiads â€“ she finished with a perfect score in the latter competition. Mathematicians who would later be her mentors and colleagues followed the mathematical proofs she developed as an undergraduate." http://news.stanford.edu/news/2014/august/fields-medal-mirzakhani-081214.html ETA: Lovely write up in Simons Foundation http://www.simonsfoundation.org/quanta/20140812-a-tenacious-explorer-of-abstract-surfaces/ ETA: Her paper http://arxiv.org/pdf/1302.3320.pdf ETA: "Stanford mathematics professor Maryam Mirzakhani, the first and to-date only female winner of the Fields Medal since its inception in 1936, died July 15 after a long battle with cancer. Mirzakhani was 40 years old." http://news.stanford.edu/2017/07/15/maryam-mirzakhani-stanford-mathematician-and-fields-medal-winner-dies/