PRIMES: Ravi Jagadeesan's Story
I first became interested in mathematics through contests. My excellent experience at the Canada-USA Mathcamp motivated me to join PRIMES. The decision to do so was probably one of the best decisions of my life. PRIMES allowed me to appreciate the monumental differences between math Olympiads, more advanced mathematical learning, and mathematical research.
At the beginning of the PRIMES program in January last year, I was mildly nervous that I would not be able to discover anything new. However, such fears were certainly unmerited. During the first few meetings, my mentor Joel Lewis provided my partner Nihal Gowravaram and me with background readings to become familiar with the common techniques. Because we were working on a more concrete combinatorics problem, the amount of reading was minimal and we were able to try our hands at some of my mentor's conjectures rather quickly. Within two months, we were formulating some of our own conjectures based on computer simulations, and before long, we were even able to find proofs of some of these conjectures. Throughout the process, Joel offered incredibly helpful insight, guidance, and support.
Mathematical research is far more fulfilling than solving a few contest problems, or a few problems out of a textbook. The simple reality is that a contest problem has a solution that someone thinks a contestant can find within a strict time limit, while for a research problem, one does not know if a solution exists, let alone one that is three lines long. Research opens the door to a new realm of possibilities, and proving (or disproving) one's own conjectures in a beautiful manner offers an amazing moment for reflection.
I would recommend PRIMES wholeheartedly to anyone who is willing to make the time commitment. The effort required, while substantial, proved extremely valuable for me.
Ravi Jagadeesan, together with Nihal Gowravaram, worked on the project Beyond alternating permutations: Pattern avoidance in Young diagrams and tableaux under the mentorship of Dr. Joel Lewis.
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