Mathematician Gives Back

Samuel K. “Krishna” Dasaratha ’13’s research doesn’t involve mice or chemicals or lasers. He’s a mathematician, and his field of investigation is, in a word, curves.

Though one usually thinks of curves in the visual sense, Dasaratha defines a curve as a set of points that can be described by polynomial equations. He is focusing on sets of curves that have special properties and can be envisioned as geometric objects—novel research in a field that’s important for disciplines such as physics and cryptography. Dasaratha, a Newton, MA native and resident of Quincy House, has been studying these curves for nearly a year as a Mathematics concentrator.

Why curves? According to him, curves are “some of the easiest geometric objects to understand and visualize.” He says that he loves “being able to imagine the pictures behind the math.”

That passion has taken him to numerous math camps and to summer work at Williams College, where he studied number theory two years ago.

That was an especially good place to do math, he added, “because it’s in the middle of nowhere and there’s absolutely nothing else to do.”

His passion has also taken him to the classroom—not only as a student, but as a teacher, too. He spends time each week teaching math to first, second, and third graders through a program called The Math Circle. He also helps Cambridge schoolchildren of all ages with their homework in a mentoring group run by the Phillips Brooks House Association.

Dasaratha says that his hope is to teach these children that “math can be fun” and to draw others to the discipline that he finds so beautiful.

“There’s a lot of beautiful content that I run into when I’m trying to prove one of these theorems,” he said about his work.

Nonetheless, he jokes that his enthusiasm for mathematics is lost on some, pointing out that “the main comment I get from my friends is that I’m really spacey—because of the math I guess.”

Dasaratha is also the treasurer for “Responsible Investment at Harvard,” a group he says aims to “get Harvard to incorporate social responsibility in its endowment.”

The group’s most recent success was getting a measure on the Undergraduate Council ballot which, now that it has been enacted, will provide an opportunity for donors to choose whether their contributions to Harvard are invested in projects focused on creating positive social impacts on campus.

Though Commencement draws near, Dasaratha hopes to stick around college campuses for most of his life. He’s applying to graduate programs in the area, and aspires to become a professor. His ideal future, he said, is “to be able to do research for part of the day and teach when I get stuck.”

In the months left on this particular campus, Dasaratha is looking forward to his last appearance in Ghungroo, a showcase of South Asian dance and music produced by the Harvard South Asian Association. He said the show remains one of the most enjoyable things he’s done at Harvard.

“But,” the mathematician adds as a disclaimer, “I don’t dance well.”

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