Ju-Lee Kim is a leading representation theorist. In her MIT office, she works at her computer between a chalkboard etched with mathematical scribbles and shelves stuffed with textbooks, objects that no doubt contain the traces of her important contributions to p-adic representation theory and harmonic analysis connected to the Langlands Program.
Ju-Lee was raised in Korea and completed her undergraduate studies at the Korean Advanced Institute in Science & Technology in 1991. Soon after, she traveled to Yale University to earn her PhD. She went on to post doctoral appointments at the IAS and the University of Michigan. In 2002, she became an assistant professor at the University of Illinois at Chicago. She joined the MIT mathematics faculty as a tenured associate professor in 2007.
A goal oriented person, as she calls herself, she did not let much stand in her path to becoming a mathematician not parents who urged her to do physics instead, nor inevitable cultural differences, such as a strong Asian accent or a feeling that she didn't fit in. "Sure, there were times I wanted to leave math," Ju-Lee says, "but I always knew that if I did, I would miss it."
Looking back, Ju-Lee realizes the importance of role models to her success. She remembers that her PhD advisors, Roger Howe and Ilya Piatetski-Shapiro, always encouraged her to become a strong female figure in mathematics. Along the way, she also found supportive role models in friends and colleagues. Now, it is her students at MIT who consistently impress her.
Ju-Lee is married to another MIT mathematician, Paul Seidel. They enjoy traveling with their young daughter Ilaria. The mother-daughter pair is often busy baking, ice-skating, and playing Sudoku.