A Beautiful Mind

The Math lounge is hidden in a discrete part of the department on the fourth floor of the Science Center,
By Alexandra C. Wood

The Math lounge is hidden in a discrete part of the department on the fourth floor of the Science Center, a strikingly social mecca for some of Harvard’s hungriest of minds.

In the words of second-year math grad student and Cabot resident tutor Alexander Pekker, “There is so much more to life than just math.”

In addition to exotic coffees and teas, the lounge houses such amenities as a blackboard (for postulating the mathematical elements of the greater world), tables, six sofas, a piano, a ping pong table and a patio for studying algebraic topology in the warm Cambridge sun.

At close to half past four on a Friday afternoon, the math lounge fills with students. Comrades catch up on the week’s events and a pair of graduate students work on originating theorems that make even the most difficult of Math 55b, Honors Advanced Calculus and Linear Algebra, problem sets look like lonely, cowering schoolchildren. “I have a lot of fun doing math,” Matthew C. Bainbridge, a third-year math grad student, boasts, boldly sporting a KISS T-shirt emblazoned with Gene Simmons’ trademark tongue.

At half past exactly, a whirlwind of fun sweeps through in the form of the weekly wine-and-cheese festivities.  Roughly 30 mathematical types converge onto a long wooden table filled with four varieties of wine ranging from deep reds to mild whites, a number of varieties of cheese ranging from brie to gouda, herbed breads, and a multitude of exotic, imported beers, including La Fin du Monde, Trois Pistols and Buchesse de Bourgogne.

Dr. Yuli Rudyak, a visiting lecturer on gauge theory and topology, attempt to prove that given: the quality of wine is excellent, the result should be a sampling on FM’s part. But alas, FM declines, as the afternoon is simply too young.

Although wine, cheese and beer are served solely on Friday afternoons, math concentrators do not go hungry during the week. Mondays through Thursdays, the Math Lounge serves up daily helpings of tea and cookies packed with flavor, convenience and maybe a mystery coefficient or two.

While being in the presence of these great minds is a little more than intimidating for FM, it’s clear that there is definitely one academic department that keeps the f of u [f(u)] in fun. “Belgian ales and [famed algebraic geometer] Oscar Zariski in a straw hat — what else can you ask for in life?” fourth-year math grad student Nicholas A. Ramsey says.