At the end of every big chapter of our lives, we are faced with tough choices. As I was applying for graduate schools, I was overwhelmed by the opportunities that awaited... somehow in the jungle of choices, everyone finds one that seems most appropriate at the moment, chooses it, and hopes that it proves to be a good one for the future. These choices define us in some way. In case of graduate school, this choice defines us as mathematicians. In this sense, I have chosen the perfect department.
First of all, I came to graduate school torn between a few areas of mathematics and wasn't quite sure how to choose one. So I took classes in all of these areas during the first two years, and have had a chance to meet faculty that were happy to discuss research problems in each area. I was very happy with the choices I had! Also, during these first years I had a chance to read recent papers and work on projects for various graduate courses. These opportunities helped me decide what I want to do and to chose Uwe Nagel as my advisor.
Then, I learned how to teach, and how to balance research/studying with full-time teahing load. It was quite challenging at times, but also very fun. This year I am realizing that one more thing I learned while in graduate school is what a professor's typical workday looks like; and I must say I feel quite prepared for the challenge!
I also had a very special arrangement for a semester or more where I didn't have to teach, thanks to two faculty members, Carl Lee and Richard Millman, whose grants that allowed me to do smaller teaching-related projects, but spend most of the time on research. I am more then grateful for these opportunitites, for these were the first months when my reserach got productive. I was very fortunate to already find a collaborator in grad school: a friend of mine, Julia Chifman, who started graduate school at the same time at UK. We have already published one paper and are working on another.
And, in terms of research, I had tremendous support not only from my advisor, but also another faculty member from my committee, Alberto Corso. I always felt like somebody was looking out for me. I always had someone to go to if I had questions about recent papers, where to get references, if I needed someone to proofread my papers, or various research-related statements. In addition, I became really good friends with students a year or two ahead of me in the program, they were wonderful mentors and full of really good advice!
Finally, one of the most important aspect of the last couple of years that I spent at UK was travel. Yes! Travel. To conferences, meetings, various seminars. The University had some funds, but also the Department of Mathematics was very generous with travel support to meetings where I was invited to speak. Of course, these things do not happen overnight; it took a lot of hard work and sacrifice, and also several (in fact, three!) dedicated and understanding Directors of Graduate Studies and, of course, the approval of the Department Chair.
Five years ago, I could not have dreamed what the graduate school experience was really going to be like... but it was everything it could have ever been for me.