Her Blog Demystifies Math for Thousands

Photo of Graduate Center Ph.D. student Tai-Danae BradleyFew doctoral students admit that they struggle with the very subject they’re devoting their professional lives to. Tai-Danae Bradley, a Graduate Center mathematics Ph.D. student and originator of the popular Math3ma blog, readily confesses it. She started the blog as a way to ease others’ pain, and, to judge from the outpouring of gratitude on the blog as well as her fandom on Twitter, she is excelling.

“Since I myself came into math late in the game, I know what it's like to be confused or to not understand,” Bradley says.

Bradley came to City College from Virginia to play basketball, but she was unsure about what to study. Only in her third year of college, after a calculus class with Professor Cheikh Mboup, did she settle on a math-related field — physics.

Until then, Bradley had learned math like most of us: memorizing, reciting, and applying formulas in order to do well on exams. Mboup convinced Bradley that math was much more than that.

“It's really this beautiful language that's describing all these wonderful phenomena that you see when you walk outside of your house, or even inside of your house,” Bradley says. “[He] explained it in a way I had never heard before.”

After finishing her physics major, Bradley stayed on to complete a math major, and then, inspired by an undergraduate math research experience, decided to pursue a Ph.D.

Still, the learning didn’t come easily.

“Math can be a little bit scary,” she says. “If you take away that intimidation factor, that scariness, then there's a really beautiful subject underneath. I would try to extract that beauty for myself, and I would write [about] it just by habit.”

In 2015, as she was preparing for her qualifying exams, she decided to start a blog, thinking she could help others in the same situation. Since then, she has amassed a loyal following.

Bradley was even tapped to by PBS to co-host “Infinite Series” on YouTube, where she and her co-host, physicist Gabe Perez-Giz, explained concepts such as unraveling DNA with rational tangles. The brief videos garnered tens of thousands of views, but PBS cancelled the series last May, to viewers’ dismay.

Now, in her dissertation work, Bradley is fusing her physics knowledge with math. She is focusing on the math and physics that underlie a new set of models that enable computers to process not just individual spoken words, but entire phrases. The language processing models, based on ideas from quantum mechanics, are designed to make computers faster at understanding speech.

Bradley’s research stems from her fellowship at Tunnel, a startup founded by her thesis adviser, Professor John Terilla (GC/Queens, Mathematics), that applies concepts from mathematics and theoretical physics to advance artificial intelligence.

Bradley says Terilla has made her graduate school experience “fantastic.” He has not only supported her research, but also her writing.

And, as she finishes her Ph.D., Bradley envisions career possibilities in academia and industry. “I’m very open to and excited about what's next,” she says.

Submitted on: MAR 12, 2019

Category: General GC News | Mathematics | Student News