Posted by: Alexandre Borovik | February 15, 2021

How can one remain a mathematician?

My answer to question on Quora: How can one remain a mathematician?

It is next to impossible to answer your question without knowing your circumstances.

Being a mathematician is a way of life.

The way of life could change for a variety a reasons: for example,

  • external pressures (say, money problems)
  • illness
  • marriage
  • just because life became too boring
  • drug addiction
  • gambling addiction
  • taking certain types of medication
  • and so on …

The list can be expanded, and every situation calls for a different answer. I do not want to take your time and say only that drug addiction is incompatible with mathematics — to remain a mathematician, stop doing drugs. Also taking, for extended periods of time, medication about which you are warned: “when taking this medication, do not make important decisions, do not drive or operate machinery”. If you were given this warning, speak to your doctor and ask for an alternative treatment; explain to your doctor, that mathematics is all about making serious decisions; it is also a mental equivalent of operating heavy machinery.

My answer is based on  many years of my experience as a personal academic advisor to mathematics students.


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