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.
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.
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 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.