Thursday, October 26, 2006

Moving to Paris

I'm moving to the University of Paris next month as a postdoc to work with JT. It came out of the blue but for me it's almost the chance of a lifetime. My Regensburg stint is till November 30th and after that my plans were very vague. The German/Schengen visa that I came on expires on Dec 16th and I didn't have money to last me beyond December. I'd been thinking of moving to London, staying with a friend and looking for a job outside academia. My position in Paris is initially from Jan 1st to March 1st but it can be extended. After I leave Regensburg, I'll travel a bit and then move to Paris by mid-December. The way this position came about was quite interesting.

In February this year, BM organized a very special semester at Harvard called eigenvarieties. BM is among the most influential and famous mathematicians in the world and in the opening lecture, he gave a very inspirational talk, about how this was almost a once in a lifetime moment and how he wished he could be a student all over again. The two other occasions he felt the same way were among the most radical and pathbreaking in the history of math (Grothendieck's theory of schemes and Langland's conjectures). BM decided to invite every expert in 2 seemingly different areas of math to explore the connections which he felt existed. I was in my last semester of my PhD and sitting at home and typing up my thesis. I lived close to Harvard so I decided to go there everyday for this semester. It was easily the most mindblowing semester I've ever been part of. Every big name I'd heard of (or not heard of till then) came and gave a series of lectures, a course or a seminar. There would be 2-4 lectures, follow up seminars and lots of informal discussions everyday. The lectures would be packed with mathematicans from the Boston area and outside, as everyone wanted to know what was happening. It was also obvious that as far as number theory goes BM was the godfather of the whole area.

JT was the first speaker of the semester and talked about developing a general theory. He'd proved a major result in this direction, and somehow I felt my thesis fit into the picture. I hadn't finished writing it and was too scared of approaching him about it till I had defended it and written it up (that was another dramatic story). My thesis involved extending the results of KB, who was visiting from London. JT led a big contingent of mathematicians based in Paris, who had all proved major theorems and it was obvious that the Paris group had a number of results which were going to change this whole area. The fact that they still do their math in French (and we all have to suffer by translating their results) shows how good and arrogant they are - unlike unfortunately the Germans, who seem to now suffer from an inferiority complex compared to their heydays a century ago. KB found my result reasonably interesting (he was on my committee and almost flunked me) and a day before my thesis defense, decided to talk about it in his lecture. I wasn't there as I was busy preparing for my defense but a friend of mine was in the audience. KB turned to BM in the audience and started talking about my work, how it verified something that BM had talked about. Then he asked him point blank "Do you think it agrees with your worldview? If not, I'll just flunk him tomorrow". BM thought for a while, and then said yes. My friend B, in the audience was ready to call me in case BM said no, and say run away, it's all over. Somehow, after a very intense and gruelling period, I survived and passed.

In August, I went to California for a workshop and then gave a couple of lectures. After one of my lectures, I met a postdoc and was asking him about postdoc positions in Europe. He told me about the European Number Theory network and how they have money for short term visitors. My advisor FD had moved to London by then, so I decided to stop in London in September and talk to him. He told me to write to JT and ask about a position. I needed to start on a new research topic, so after I reached Germany I emailed KB in London and asked him about extending my thesis to what JT had talked about. KB sent me some suggestions, which I thought about, and then emailed JT about the kind of problem I wanted to work on. After a bit of emailing back and forth, he wrote back and invited me to visit Paris and join the Paris node of the European number theory group.

I feel scared and excited about the move. Obviously, I jumped at the chance and though I have to now apply for my 4th visa in 5 months, look for a studio and move again, I can't wait to get there.

9 comments:

Bea said...

Wow that sounds very exciting! I am so jealous. Not only am I impressed with the blossoming of your academic career but also your seemingly strong networking skills. You rock!

Tabula Rasa said...

congchulesun.

fatterbelly said...

u bugger u reveal yourself in such an itsy bitsy teeny weeny way that it is truly infeuriating.any way well done

bandafbab said...

danke, aller.

Tabula Rasa said...

allez, allez.

Sash said...

Congrats. This sounds very exciting.

hans said...

Oh yeah, sounds like a great chance! ...Goldman Sachs recently called: they're looking for big shots in eigenvarieties;-)
Well, great news, Paris is amazing once you get used to it. Then I can say: "I know some Indians in Paris."

bandafbab said...

If you all know of anyone in Paris who can help this Indian finding a studio for 3 months, let me know.

Sash said...

Afty, I have friends who might be able to help. Email me more details.