Reflections


Photo by RoundTurnerPhotography.com

I began my career as a “normal” career academic, although my friends and family will tell you I’ve never been particularly normal. I did the things academics do: get several degrees, do post-doctoral positions around the world, spend long nights doing research in between preparing and delivering undergraduate lectures, travel on a shoestring to attend conferences, publish papers in peer-reviewed journals, sit on committees to help run the university.

Eventually I decided I needed to do more. I believe in using one’s talents to help the world in the way that makes best use of those talents. I decided that mine were more urgently needed in the realm of mathematics education and popularisation. I had already been making mathematics videos on YouTube since 2007, but they were initially aimed at graduate students and then undergraduates. I shifted to making videos for a general audience. I started doing more media work to reach more people outside the world of universities. I wrote my first book, “How to Bake Pi” aimed at a very wide audience. After a few years of transition I resigned from my tenured academic job in order to pursue a portfolio career with a big emphasis on bringing mathematics to a wider audience.

Photo by Paul Crisanti of PhotoGetGo

I am now based in Chicago although I still work in Europe frequently, and my work encompasses a range of activities including research in category theory, undergraduate teaching, writing books for a general audience, public speaking, outreach projects, school visits, professional development for teachers, mathematical art and also music: performing classical music as a solo and collaborative pianist, running the Liederstube, a non-for-profit I founded to bring classical music to a wider audience, giving piano lessons and voice coaching.

Details


I am Scientist in Residence at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, Honorary Fellow of the University of Sheffield and Honorary Visiting Fellow of City University, London. Previously I was a Senior Lecturer (Associate Professor) of Pure Mathematics in the School of Mathematics and Statistics, University of Sheffield, UK.  From September 2013 to December 2014 I was a visiting Senior Lecturer at the University of Chicago and I have been based in Chicago ever since, though I still frequently work and give talks in Europe. My research is in category theory, mostly higher-dimensional. Some non-technical introductions to my field can be found here.

I am author of the popular mathematics book “How to Bake Pi: An Edible Exploration of the Mathematics of Mathematics” published by Basic Books (UK title: “Cakes, Custard and Category Theory: easy recipes for complex maths”, published by Profile.) Here is the New York Times review, my appearance on the Late Show with Stephen Colbert, and a feature about me and my work in the New York Times Science section. The book is being translated into eight languages so far. My second popular mathematics book is “Beyond Infinity: An Expedition to the Outer Limits of Mathematics”. This was published in 2017 and was shortlisted for the Royal Society Insight Investment Science Book Prize. My next book “Thinking Better: The Art of Logic in an Illogic World” will be published by Profile and Basic Books in 2018.

I am keen to bring mathematics to a wider audience and help reduce maths phobia!  I am good at explaining things in an accessible way to non-mathematicians of all ages. On top of my job teaching undergraduates and graduate students, I have volunteered helping with mathematics in primary/elementary school ever since I was a graduate student. I also founded the Sheffield Mathematics Academy to bring secondary/high school students to university for mathematics enrichment.  My job at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago involves teaching high level abstract mathematics to art students.  I also have a busy schedule giving public talks and leading workshops around the US and the world. My calendar can be found here. For more information about the popularisation and outreach work I do see here.

Until September 2007 I was a Marie Curie Fellow at the Laboratoire J. A. Dieudonné, the Department of Mathematics at the Université de Nice-Sophia Antipolis.

From 2004 to 2006 I was an L. E. Dickson Instructor in the Department of Mathematics, University of Chicago.

From 2001 to 2004 I was a research fellow in pure mathematics at Newnham College, Cambridge.

Before arriving at Newnham College, I was at Gonville and Caius College, where I did my Ph.D., Part III and undergraduate degree.