Math Professor

Alexander Leibman

What is your professional title? Assistant Professor at a Mathematics Department Tell us about your work-what do you do? My work consists of two practically independent parts : research and teaching . My research lies in the field of ergodic theory, but what follows can be attributed to any field of abstract mathematics: I investigate some complicated structures, which, in fact, exist only in people's minds. No advanced devices or chemicals can help in these investigations; the only instrument you have is meditation. What skills are needed? For research you need the skill of concentrated thinking. You also need a lot of practical, so to say, technical skills . For teaching you have to be capable of organizing and clearly expressing complicated ideas; you need good communication skills and a pedagogical talent. (I miss these so much!). What was your major? Mathematics How did you get started in your career? I always liked problem solving ; when I had learned that it was possible to solve problems and get a salary for this, I no longer had any doubts. What experience do you need in this job? Nothing except for a good mathematical education . It can only be obtained through years of studies and training. Describe your "typical" workday: Here are the typical things I do: Teaching: preparing and giving lectures ; composing homework and exam problems and writing solutions to these problems; grading homework and exams ; consulting students . Research: reading papers written by others; writing my own papers; writing proposals and reports ; discussions with colleagues ; thinking. What is the hardest aspect of your job? If the problem you are dealing with allows no known methods for its solution, you never know if you will succeed. You may spend years and get no result. In teaching, it is very frustrating to see that beautiful mathematical theories, the bright summits of mankind's thought, are considered by most students as senseless and boring rubbish which cruel professors force them to memorize, nobody knows what for. What is the most rewarding aspect of your job? Creative work is rewarding in itself. When you solve a difficult problem -- you are happy! It is also a big pleasure to see another's solution of a problem, especially if it involves new interesting structures. If a student is really interested in a mathematical theory and you are able to satisfy his/her interest, you feel very rewarded. What are your suggestions for someone considering this field? The career of a pure mathematician is tough and insecure. Start it only if you really feel that mathematics is your vocation.