“Have FUN!” – Joe Gallian

Didn’t do well in high school. Didn’t think he would go to college. After getting his PhD, he applied to 145 jobs and got one, just one… University of Minnesota Duluth. Then, he became the father of undergraduate research. I am talking about Joe Gallian.

During JMM 2020, Joe talked about his REU program. Then, Shah Roshan Zamir (a former student of Joe), premiered a documentary about Joe and the program, which has ran continuously since 1987. It was fun, informative, and it conveyed how much fun students have in the program. It will be shown again at 2020 MAA MathFest and will eventually be available in YouTube.

In the documentary, after singing a Beatles son, Joe says “When you go to a new place, make yourself valuable.” For him, it was believing in and conducting undergraduate research. In his program, arguably the most successful math REU, he has some guidelines. The first one: participants should have FUN. Joe organizes weekly field trips, students play Math Charades and other games, and throughout the year, the program has developed all sorts of funny traditions: Duluth mile, erase the whiteboard, halftime show, crossing the river, and many others. You have to ask him about them…

Crossing the river. Ask Joe…

His alumni, which include Manjul Bhargava and Melanie Wood, paint a picture of a humble, fun, caring, and supportive advisor. In the Documentary, he takes things lightly, has fun singing Beatles songs, and shares great pieces of advice. “Find something to do, something to love, and something to look forward to.” And “Have FUN!”

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