09 October 2022
King's women in maths: Dr Vaidehee Thatte
Vaidehee Thatte interview
Who are you and what is your areas of research?
I am a pure mathematician born and raised in India. I work in number theory, arithmetic algebraic geometry, and valuation theory. Very roughly speaking and at the risk of oversimplifying, I study connections between strange behaviours of abstract objects that are like prime numbers and wonky geometric shapes arising from algebraic equations.
What is the best thing about mathematics?
When you do maths research you fail 99% of the time, trying new things and new approaches. It is a lot of pain and hard work. But when one day you solve that problem, it is a brilliant light bulb moment.
What do you think is holding women back from pursuing a degree/career in the maths field?
Most outreach activities focus on encouraging women to pursue a career in mathematics; not as much goes into supporting early-career women and those without permanent contracts. Everyone should feel comfortable voicing concerns and know that there is sustained and targeted support available, something that goes beyond basic rights such as parental leaves and childcare. I hope to raise awareness and work on this issue to help create a better and brighter environment for my younger colleagues in the years to come.
What advice would you give to someone considering studying maths?
Talk to people! Talk to students, postdocs, and professors. Talk to people outside academia who have degrees in mathematics. Ask them about their lives, their career choices, and any obstacles they faced. If possible, sign up for mini projects (or internships) to experience what research (or a specific non-academic job) feels like.
What has been the most unexpectedly pleasant event that has happened since you entered the field of mathematics
When I finished the manuscript for my PhD thesis, my supervisor told me that I was now THE expert in that particular field (a hyperspecialized field, but still!).
What do you do in your spare time?
Many things. I am trained in karate and yoga. I play volleyball and badminton, do Zumba. I play chess. I enjoy DIY projects including assembling furniture. I am trained in Hindustani classical vocal music.