Author Archives: Adriana Salerno

Potent quotables

Here are a few of my favorite “quotes” from the meetings so far (“”quotes”” instead of “quotes” because I did not write all of these down carefully, and so they are more like paraphrased/remembered versions of quotes).

“In mathematics, and more generally STEM, we teach to exclude. We teach in a way meant to weed people out of our courses, with the idea that only the “best” should survive. Math is not going to be fair and equitable until we change this culture.” Karen Saxe, AWM panel on Using mathematics in activism

“I don’t really buy into the idea of progress, although I will vote for it. What I really want to do is to burn it all down.” Piper Harron, AWM panel on Using mathematics in activism

AMS Education and Diversity Panel: (left to right) Helen Grundman, Edray Goins, Richard Laugesen, Richard McGehee, and Katrin Wehrheim.

“This is what I call the tragedy of the linear order. We think mathematicians are ranked linearly, like there’s a best mathematician, a second best mathematician, etc. We do this too with jobs. There is no such thing, and we must accept that.” Richard McGehee, AMS Education and Diversity Department Panel on Strategies for Diversifying Graduate Mathematics Programs

“There is a difference between an adviser and a mentor. You need an adviser for your Ph.D., but you should also find a mentor.” Edray Goins, AMS Education and Diversity Department Panel on Strategies for Diversifying Graduate Mathematics Programs

“We need some sort of database that records what percentage of students that are accepted into graduate programs actually pass their quals, and how many finish their Ph.D.” Katrin Wehrheim, AMS Education and Diversity Department Panel on Strategies for Diversifying Graduate Mathematics Programs

Enrique Trevino.

“Little know fact, although maybe known to many of you: Lagrange was actually Italian, not French. His name was Giuseppe Ludovico Lagrange, if I’m not mistaken.” Enrique Trevino, AMS Special Session on a Showcase of Number Theory at Liberal Arts Colleges. Some people nodded, but most people had their minds blown by this fact (myself included).

Out in Mathematics Panel (left to right): Juliette Bruce, Shelly Bouchat, Frank Farris, Ron Buckmire, Emily Riehl, and moderator Lily Khadjavi.

“I may look very well adjusted and happy, which I am, but most people don’t know that in the 80s I was very depressed — almost suicidal — because I felt so alone. I am here to tell you that it does get better.” Frank Farris, MAA panel on Out in Mathematics (co-sponsored by Spectra, the association for LGBTQ mathematicians).

“I just get a rush of adrenaline and then I speak my mind. It doesn’t always go very well. ” Emily Riehl, MAA panel on Out in Mathematics, when asked by moderator Lily Khadjavi about how she manages to be so brave.

And a bonus quote from my meeting with an editorial board I serve on. I saw what is possibly the best example of the Dunning-Kruger effect in math, when shown an excerpt of a response email to a paper rejection (a perfectly nice rejection, at that).

“I can tell your board is inept, because it is trivial to confirm the proof […] I am not surprised they are lazy and dismissive. My paper is the most brilliant paper ever written on the subject. […] Whoops, it’s the biggest blunder that mathematics has ever made, as a whole. This paper separates the men from the boys…” — Anonymous

Adriana and Hermione’s Time Turner

Every time I come to the Joint Math Meetings, I wish I had the time turner that Hermione uses in Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban. There is too much interesting stuff all happening at the same time!  This time in particular was a first for me as far as Joint Math Meetings go: the two things I organized were scheduled at the same time!

AWM Panel on Being a Mathematician and an Activist. Left to right: Michelle Manes (moderator), Beth Malmskog, Federico Ardila, Piper Harron, Lily Khadjavi, and Karen Saxe.

First (or second?) I co-organized the AWM panel on Being a Mathematician and an Activist. Luckily, my co-organizer Michelle Manes had already volunteered to be the moderator (and she did an amazing job), so it didn’t matter that I ran in a few minutes late (because my simultaneous special session needed my laptop). I decided to go to the panel (2:15pm to 3:40pm), since I felt that Michelle might need more support. I tried to give the needed support, but I was spectacularly bad at figuring out when people had questions. The panel itself went really well (in my opinion). The panelists all had very insightful things to say, but I was struck by how many of them didn’t consider themselves to be “doing enough” to deserve the label “activist”. Another common thread was the need to fight for equity and justice, but also the sentiment that the goal should be that we no longer have to fight for any of this, and that racism, misogyny, and bigotry in general have no place in our society.

Stephan Ramon Garcia, from Pomona, gives a talk in the AMS special session on A Showcase of Number Theory at Liberal Arts Colleges.

Second (or first?) I co-organized the AMS Special Session on A Showcase in Number Theory at Liberal Arts Colleges (2:15pm to 6:05pm). Again, I was lucky to have a co-organizer, Lola Thompson, who took charge of the session while I was at the panel. Important lesson, when your computer is being used by all the presenters, and you’re not in the room, bad things can happen (like your computer going into sleep mode and no one knowing your password). It was not a disaster because the other presenters had a computer, but still. I missed two of the talks in the session, and arrived late at the next, but I’m glad I was able to see most of them. I’m really proud of this session, because it is a really fantastic group of high-quality researchers at small (and sometimes underestimated) institutions. Lola and I may be bringing this back next year (there were so many more people that we could have invited!), so stay tuned for that!

All in all, a pretty exhausting day, with traveling, double-booked organizing, and a panel that I’m hoping to write more about tomorrow. I was hoping to go to the AWM reception, but I’m barely awake enough to type (while lying in my hotel room bed). Hope you all had a time-turning-worthy day too!