Days in Lewis Hall

Submitted by Tony I Garcia on

By Yue Wang

During 2013-2018, I was a Ph.D. student at UW AMath, under the supervision of Prof. Hong Qian. Then I went to IHÉS in France and UCLA to continue my applied math research.

Hong had many ideas that I could try, although most of them didn’t work. The most common scenario in my Ph.D. was that Hong told me some ideas, and I came back several days later with some counterexamples. Certainly, we finally found a good idea in thermodynamics and finished a decent probability paper. This experience strengthened my ability to evaluate research ideas, which helped me a lot in my later research. If students only get correct research ideas, they might have a hard time when starting to conduct research independently.

Once Hong told me that he attended an interesting talk about causal inference. I found that subject interesting too, so Hong tried his best to help me walk through it. Since Hong was not an expert on causal inference, when I got some results and he could not guide me anymore, he tried to contact experts in this subject to give me some guidance. At last, I collaborated with a former student at UW Stats and finished a satisfactory paper. Hong insisted that his name should only appear in the acknowledgments, not the author list.

When I was an undergraduate student, my understanding of math research was to think about a given conjecture and try to prove it. In AMath, I learned that math is hidden everywhere in the reality. I gradually acquired the ability to find good math problems in other fields, especially biology. Last year, I read a story about heritage and succession. They I noticed that the inheritance law might not be complete, and composed a counterexample. Finally, I proved that such counterexamples are inevitable in certain types of inheritance laws and finished a research paper.

AMath is a small but warm community, and everyone addresses each other by their first names. In comparison, right after my dissertation defense, a professor from another department told me that having a Ph.D. degree, I was then qualified to call him by his first name, not Prof. XXX. I like the lounge on the third floor of Lewis Hall, which creates a good space for people to chat and relax. As a poor student, I was fascinated by the free food in the lounge. One night in my last year at UW, I felt hungry and went to the lounge to steal some leftover food. Nourished by the free chips, I suddenly got an idea that significantly simplified a proof in my dissertation. AMath also has some interesting annual events, such as the dessert competition and the white elephant gift exchange. Once I got a pink tutu from the white elephant gift change, and a vegan got my meat processing equipment. In the summer before the second year of my Ph.D., I was preparing for the qualification exam. One rainy Saturday morning, I went to Lewis Hall to review my notes (I was so diligent at that time!). When I entered my office on the third floor, I found a lot of rainwater leaking from the roof. That leakage damaged some offices, and Hong and I had to meet in the HUB.

When I came to UW in the fall of 2013, there was a little cedar outside of Lewis Hall, at most half of my height, planted that spring. When I graduated in 2018, that cedar was at least twice my height. During that five years, that cedar grew a lot, and so did I.

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