Monday, July 03, 2006

je me présente

Hello. I am Joshua Paul Bowman. Born on May 8, 1977, so this is my thirtieth year. And it promises to be rife with excitement (already has been, in fact). Most especially since I will be spending the larger portion of it in France, which is essentially the motivation to begin this blog.

I am not a particularly public person, so I’m not quite sure about this “posting stories of my personal life to the Internet” thing, and I’ll probably be somewhat cautious in what I tell. Nor am I particularly private, and I’m terrible at dissembling, so I’ll be quite frank in what I do tell. (Any of my friends who are reading and don’t want to be mentioned, let me know now. :-) )

Some background: I am about to start my 4th year as a graduate student in mathematics at Cornell University. My advisor, John Hubbard, has a teaching position at the University of Marseille. I and another student of his will be accompanying him this school year. (“Marseilles” with an s, by the way, is apparently an English alternative spelling. I’ll be using the proper French spelling.)

For those who might know or care what it means, I’m studying quadratic differentials on Riemann surfaces, a subject that lies at an intersection of complex analysis, topology, dynamics, Euclidean and hyperbolic geometry, number theory, and many other subjects. I consider myself a geometer above all else.

Some folks ask what I’ll be doing in France—or more to the point, why I’m going. I answer that I’m going to research. But I thought math research (if I believed such a thing existed at all) didn’t require a lab or anything that means you have to be in a particular place, they say. I reply that it is important to realize that mathematics is a social endeavor. Sure, there are some people who carry out fantastic research in solitude, and much of the understanding one achieves can only be reached by spending time alone in thought. However, as in any developing subject or theory, different people have different perspectives and different kinds of experience. What is obvious to one is obscure to another, and what is trivial today may be vital tomorrow. My advisor will be in France. Marseille and the surrounding region house other researchers in my field. Ergo, it makes sense for me to spend some time there.

I make no secret that I am (at times more, at times less) apprehensive about spending several months living in the south of France. Perhaps more on that later. I’m also looking forward to it: it seems to me a great opportunity for professional and personal growth. I’ll keep you updated.

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