Throughout my life I benefited from the invaluable support of multiple mentors, too many to mention here. I would like to mention a small number of them who have been especially critical to my mathematical development, for an extended period of time. If I have succeeded in my aspiration of becoming a professional applied mathematician, it is thanks to their belief in my ability to succeed. I will briefly mention who they are and how they helped me develop as a mathematician; it is my hope that they will all contribute an interview to my blog at a future time.
My father was, and remains, my first mentor. My interest in mathematics started with the book he put at my disposal, and his patient explanation of difficult concepts has kept it growing through the years.
John Eggers, a professor at UCSD, helped me prepare for dozens of mathematical competitions after we met online playing chess in 1999. It was only 12 years later that I finally got to meet him in person.
Pierre Bouchard, a professor at UQAM, organized the 2001-2 summer math camps which exposed me to more mathematics than I had ever seen. I still fondly remember his proof of the transcendence of pi.
Christophe Reutenauer, head of LACIM, gave me my first contact with mathematics research during the summers of 2002 and 2003. He first introduced me to combinatorics, graph theory, and algorithms.
Mario d’Angelo, a teacher at Marianopolis College, was instrumental in my preparation for national math competitions. His comprehensive knowledge of geometry and his quick mind always impress me.
Tamara Zakon, another teacher at Marianopolis College, guided my mathematics self-study program. She introduced me to linear algebra, a subject that I’m still in love with and continue to use nearly daily.
Mathieu Blanchette, a professor at McGill University, introduced me to computer science. He also led my research project in 2004 which introduced me to bioinformatics and resulted in my first publication.
Nilima Nigam, then a professor at McGill University, inspired my preference for applied math with her numerical analysis class. She led my research project in 2005 which resulted in my second publication.
Bonnie Berger, a professor at MIT, inspired my preference for computational biology as my research area. A very dedicated thesis advisor, she patiently helped me get through the many hurdles I had faced.
Aviv Regev, also a professor at MIT, helped me find meaning in my research, directing it to infectious diseases. Our collaboration ultimately led to my PhD thesis, dealing with metabolic networks in TB.
Of course, it would be wrong to think that one’s mathematical development ends with graduate school, it is simply expected to be independent after that milestone. However, I continue to receive mentorship now, it just takes a different form, with a focus on my professional, rather than technical, development.
If you are an aspiring mathematician yourself, the best advice I can give you is to find people who can be role models and mentors for you – it will not only make your development easier, but will enable you to benefit from the extensive experience that your mentors possess in the field of your choice.