Advice

I found the following links helpful. Maybe you will, too!

  • Are you looking for free, open-source math books?  You can’t beat the price!
  • Are you thinking about majoring in math? You should do it!
    • Here’s some general career info from the MAA about what you can do with a math major.
    • W&L is a great place to major in math! The faculty are friendly, the courses are fun, and we have summer research opportunities right here on campus. Yes, you get paid to do math! You can see what my students have done in the past by checking out my student research page.
    • Oh! And yes, I’m always happy to talk with you about being your adviser (for your major, your minor, an honors thesis, summer research, and so on); just stop by my office. And if for whatever reason I can’t do it (I might already have too many students, or maybe you’re interested in a different area of math), I can direct you to another one of our many enthusiastic and super-friendly math faculty members.
    • There are also lots of great summer research options at different schools around the country; these are called REU’s (Research Experience for Undergraduates), and yes, they will pay you!
  • Are you thinking about teaching math in high school? It can be a rewarding career.
    • I spent a year teaching at a private high school in Texas before I went back to graduate school to get my PhD, and I would be happy to chat with you about it.
    • For private schools, you don’t need a teaching license or an education degree.
    • Some students have used recruitment agencies like Southern Teachers (located in Charlottesville!) or Carney Sandoe, while other students have contacted high schools directly. You could also check the job boards at the NAIS career center.
  • Are you thinking about being an actuary? It can be a rewarding (and lucrative) career. Check out all the information on my actuary page.
  • Are you thinking about going to graduate school and getting a PhD?
    • Here’s some general career info from the AMS about being a mathematician, and you should also read “Useful things to know when starting graduate school” from the UC Davis Math Grad Student group.
    • For mathematics and statistics, the situation is pretty good once you get a PhD. The AMS publishes detailed annual reports on the demographics, salaries, and employment status of new PhD’s. The last time I checked, a recent graduating class (2014-15) had an unemployment rate of only 6.1%.
    • Also, math/stats graduate programs pay you to get your degree! Typically, you get a stipend between $20,000 and $30,000.
    • Here’s Bob Henderson’s interesting article on getting a PhD in physics, and how it didn’t quite work out the way he thought it would.
  •  Do you want to be a professor? There are many different kinds of colleges and universities where you could work; some of them are more focused on research while others are more directed towards teaching. Check out the faculty web pages at different kinds of schools to see what your job would be like (and what it would require of you). Also, the Chronicle of Higher Education and Inside Higher Ed have the lowdown on what it’s like to work at a college or university.
  • Do you want to save a life?
    • You can start off with some simple things, like learning CPR and First Aid here at W&L (PE 304, offered every fall and winter) or via an online course. I’ve done this; it’s really fun!
    • The W&L Outing Club occasionally offers a two-day “Wilderness First Aid” class; I did this back in 2016. Contact the Outing Club for details.
    • You can donate blood at one of the many local blood drives. I’ve done this; they have great cookies!
    • You can donate plasma and platelets (in a process called apheresis) at the Red Cross Center in Roanoke. I’ve done this, too. It takes about two hours, but they have lots of great movies to watch (and lots of cookies!).
    • You can put yourself on the bone marrow donation list. I’ve done this, and they send you this neat little swab kit (just like on CSI) to see if you’re a match with someone.
    • You can make sure that you’ve signed up to be an organ donor after you die. Most states let you do this on your driver’s license. I’ve done this, and I have the “organ donor” heart on my license! Here’s the Virginia DMV link where you can learn more.
    • You can find out if you qualify to be a living kidney donor. I’ve done this, too: I donated my left kidney back in May of 2018. This is a big decision and a big gift, and it will quite literally save someone’s life (my gift did just that). You can check out the National Kidney Foundation for more information, or read this story on vox.com by one donor, or contact your local transplant center (ours is the Strickland Transplant Center at UVa). See also donatelife.net and transplantliving.org for more (including the option to be a living liver donor: you donate only part of your liver, and the remaining part will grow back to normal size within a month or two).
    • Here are some statistics on kidney donation, taken from the National Kidney Foundation website:
      1. There’s something like 600,000 people in the US who have end-stage renal disease (kidney failure).
      2. About 450,000 or so of those are on dialysis.
      3. Only about 100,000 of those are on the waiting list for a new kidney. (Many people are simply too sick to qualify for the waiting list).
      4. People spend many years on the transplant wait list; depending on blood type, the wait can be up to 5 to 7 years.
      5. Each year about 4,500 people die while on the wait list, and another 3,500 or so become too sick and are taken off the wait list.
      6. Each year about 17,000 people get a transplant; only about 5,500 or so are from living donors.