Researcher of the Year Benjamin Antieau
Rising Star, Natural Sciences and Engineering
Associate professor of mathematics, statistics and computer science
Years at UIC: 6
What are your research interests?
I do work in algebraic geometry, which is about the geometry of solutions to large-degree polynomials in many variables, and algebraic topology, which is about the “soft” nature of shapes. Many fundamental questions and conjectures are about the more rigid world of algebraic geometry, but this setting poses a lot of challenges for analysts looking to study such geometries in the large. Algebraic topology brings an extra set of tools for “soft,” almost qualitative analysis of these geometries. Much of my work has involved applying these soft approaches to gain new insight about hard geometric questions.
How did you become interested in these topics?
Problems on the boundaries between these two fields have always attracted me. They seem like the best-of-both-worlds: questions of a classical flavor that can be answered using modern machinery and techniques.
What do you teach?
This semester, I am teaching an upper-division undergraduate course called Introduction to Topology I, and a second-year graduate course called Algebraic Topology II.
How do you balance teaching and research?
I set aside time in each day for research and teaching. Ignoring either side quickly leads to discontent.
What’s your advice to students who want to focus their future careers on research?
My main advice is to (1) learn everything you can, and (2) let yourself get distracted about topics that excite you. Many research projects spring from going down a rabbit hole. If your brain is trying to tell you to spend time thinking about a problem or topic, then you should let yourself spend some serious time on it.