Mathematical Career DNE
September 23, 2011 § Leave a comment
I consider myself to be a passionate student of mathematics. I have always enjoyed mathematics, but my fondness for the subject developed into love after taking more abstract courses in college. Topology, for instance, offers the opportunity to create, analyze, and compare abstract spaces. After college, I hope to go to graduate school for mathematics and eventually become a professor. However, I once almost made a choice that would have most likely prevented me from realizing my love of this subject and derailed me from the path on which I now find myself.
During my freshman year, I enrolled in a mathematics course that was, at the time, quite difficult for me. It was my first real experience with a non-computational mathematics course, and I found the unfamiliar nature of the material somewhat overwhelming. At one point, I considered withdrawing from this course because I was planning to major in cellular biology and did not “need” to take such a difficult mathematics course. I remember thinking seriously and for a long time about this decision. In this universe, I eventually decided that, even though I felt like a sponge under a waterfall of information, I still enjoyed the material too much to give it up. Hence, I finished the course and went on to other mathematics courses, where I found that the background I had developed gave me a degree of mathematical intuition and an understanding of rigor from which I will benefit for the rest of my career.
Consider a universe in which I did drop the course. I probably would have majored in cellular biology or neuroscience. Perhaps I would have continued on to medical school or graduate school to become a physician or a researcher, respectively. I have done immunological research and thought it was fascinating, so I certainly do not want to depict this alternate universe as the bleak actualization of a mistake where I would spend my days contemplating my possible career as a mathematician. I might take the MCAT instead of the GRE or be a resident physician instead of a postdoc, but I am comfortable saying that I would most likely be quite happy if I pursued this career path. Nevertheless, I cannot disregard the fact that I would miss out on the exhilarating feeling of solving a problem with a clever proof and of constructing interesting spaces in which my mind can wander. Therefore, I do not think that dropping the course would have resulted in an unpleasant future, but there is no guarantee that I would feel as fulfilled as I do by mathematics.