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Saturday, February 23, 2019

Mathematician finds balance and beauty in math | Mathematics - MIT News

Jennifer Chu, covers mechanical engineering, mathematics, physics, aeronautics, astronautics, and earth, atmospheric, and planetary sciences as a writer for the MIT News Office inform, Zhiwei Yun seeks to connect seemingly disparate fields in mathematics.

On mentoring graduate students, Yun says that “every student has their own taste, and finds problems that interest themselves, and I encourage this. That should make the transition from student to researcher more smooth.”
Photo: Bryce Vickmark

Since he was a child growing up in Changzhou, China, Zhiwei Yun’s appetite for mathematics was nothing but linear, growing with each year as he absorbed lessons and solved increasingly difficult problems, both in the classroom and on his own time, with a zeal that can only come from finding one’s true passion.  

But when Yun was a graduate student, he felt his trajectory come up short. In his third year, he was in a panic as he faced for the first time the difference between learning established mathematics and discovering new math as a researcher.

But his advisor Bob MacPherson, a professor at the Institute for Advanced Study, kept encouraging him to find his own way, saying “only a problem found by yourself can really interest and drive you to the final solution.”..

After graduation, Yun headed to Princeton University to pursue a PhD in pure mathematics. When he did eventually land on a thesis topic, it was in representation theory, a branch of mathematics that seeks to represent abstract algebraic structures in concrete terms such as matrices or symmetries of shapes.

Representation theory plays a crucial role in the Langlands program, a series of associated conjectures devised by mathematician Robert Langlands, that seeks to connect the seemingly disparate fields of number theory and geometry. The Langlands program is considered one of the biggest projects in modern mathematical research, and Yun continues to work in the field of representation theory, with a focus on the Langlands program.

Source: MIT News