Developing a Career in Mathematics



How is Mathematics taught?

Choosng an Advisor


Read Raymond Johnson's article, "Developing a Career in Research."

Choosing an Advisor

One View: On a sunny day, a rabbit came out of her hole in the ground to enjoy the fine weather. The day was so nice that she became careless and a fox snuck up behind her and caught her.

   "I am going to eat you for lunch!", said the fox.

   "Wait!", replied the rabbit, "You should at least wait a few days."

   "Oh yeah? Why should I wait?"

   "Well, just now, I am writing my thesis on the superiority of rabbits over foxes and wolves.

   "Are you crazy? I should eat you right now! Everybody knows that a fox will always win over a rabbit."

   "Not really, not according to my research. If you like, you can come into my hole and read it for yourself. If you are not convinced, you can go ahead and have me for lunch."

   "You really are crazy!"
But since the fox was curious and had nothing to lose, it went with the rabbit. The fox never came out.

A few days later the rabbit was again taking a break from writing and sure enough, a wolf came out of the bushes and was ready to set upon her.

   "Wait!" yelled the rabbit, "you can't eat me right now."

   "And why might that be, my furry appetizer?"

   "I am almost finishing my thesis - On the Superiority of Rabbits over Foxes and Wolves.."

The wolf laughed so hard that it almost lost its grip on the rabbit.

   "Maybe I shouldn't eat you; you really are sick ... in the head. You might have something contagious."

   "Come and read it for yourself; you can eat me afterward if you disagree with my conclusions."
So the wolf went down into the rabbit's hole ... and never came out.

The rabbit finished her thesis and was out celebrating in the local lettuce patch. Another rabbit came along and asked, "What's up? You seem very happy."

   "Yup, I just finished my thesis."

   "Congratulations. What's it about?"

   "On the Superiority of Rabbits over Foxes and Wolves..

   "Are you sure? That doesn't sound right."

   "Oh yes. Come and read it for yourself."

So together they went down into the rabbit's hole. As they entered, the friend saw the typical graduate abode, albeit a rather messy one after writing a thesis. The computer with the controversial work was in one corner. And to the right there was a pile of fox bones, on the left a pile of wolf bones. And in the middle was a large, well-fed lion.

The moral of the story:

The title of your thesis doesn't matter.

The subject doesn't matter.

The research doesn't matter.

All that matters is who your advisor is.

Many African Americans have attended graduate schools where they were the only black student, however, other schools had a long tradition of seeking out African American students. Below we consider several of those "popular schools"; however, in the mean time read what one graduate, Janice Wallker says.

Janice Walker says she was surprised by the large number of African Americans in Michigan's mathematics graduate program even though Michigan has a long history of recruiting and graduating African Americans. She was pleased to find that at the University of Michigan and in Ann Arbor, generally, "racial tension was not common." The atmosphere in the Mathematics Department, support of many faculty members and the camaraderie among the students made her time at Michigan rewarding, stimulating, and comfortable. She recalls that "African American graduate students in the doctoral program formed a close-knit group that still exists. We were a family. We celebrated successes and shared failures." While she was there, the African American students formed a mathematics society, the Ishango Mathematics Society. The society provided support and information, encouraged cooperation and social interaction among African American graduate students, and gave them the opportunity to present talks.


Popular Schools

Which schools have the highest number of African American Ph.D.s?

University of Michigan-Ann Arbor

Howard University

University of California at Berkeley

University of Illinois-Urbana



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