When Justin Corvino, associate professor of mathematics, received a National Science Foundation grant, he envisioned using part of it to support student travel to professional conferences, but he never guessed how perfectly it would work out this summer. He and Farhan Abedin ’11 (Dhaka, Bangladesh) attended the PRIMA Conference on Geometric Analysis hosted by the Pacific Institute for Mathematical Sciences at the University of British Colombia in Vancouver.
During the 10-day conference, Abedin learned about research-level mathematics and had a chance to hobnob with leaders in the field. The only undergraduate in attendance, he found that conference presenters, including Corvino and scholars from Stanford, Princeton, and Berkeley, were more than willing to take time to answer his questions.
“My goals in attending this conference were to observe how professional mathematical work is presented, interact with graduate students, and meet and talk with the people whose work I had been studying over the summer,” says Abedin, who plans to attend graduate school.
Abedin is no stranger to research; this is his third summer conducting EXCEL Scholars research with Corvino. They’ve worked in differential geometry, which, Abedin explains, involves the study of manifolds, objects that look like Euclidean space at small scales. In two dimensions, a manifold is a surface just like the outer region of a doughnut or football.
“The research I do with Professor Corvino is entirely different from work I have done with him in class,” he says. “There are no predetermined problem sets; a major part of research is to formulate open problems and tackle them with the tools obtained in the classroom. Also, since the answer is unknown to both student and teacher, it creates a lot more interaction as we constantly feed each other with ideas and possible solutions.”
Corvino has been impressed with the quality of his student’s work. They are working on a paper for publication; they also published a paper in 2009 with Haotian Wu ’07 and Shelvean Kapita ’10. Abedin has begun honors thesis research in differential geometry this year under Corvino’s guidance.
“It’s really good for students to get exposure to how research is conducted,” Corvino says. “We get students ready for graduate school through advanced independent study courses and research projects. Farhan will have had a much more thorough exposure to the field than I had going into graduate school.”
Abedin feels confident as he looks forward to the future. He also attended the International Symposium on Geometry and Topology this summer.
“I am extremely grateful to Professor Corvino for providing me with the opportunity to work in geometry and attend these conferences,” he says. “He has been an inspiration in many ways and has greatly influenced my way of thinking and my taste in mathematics. The work I’ve done and the conferences I’ve attended have prepared me well for the life of a graduate student.”