Math advising interview notes + project ideas (for math-inclined EA career changers)

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Intended Audience: EAs exploring a return to school to pursuing applied math-oriented EA studies (including computer science, economics, etc).

Source: An intense 45 minute conversation with a math adviser at my local community college.

Requests: If you are an EA career changer (especially math-oriented or older) interested in forming a peer support network for a EA-oriented return to school, please PM me. I'd also appreciate even a very brief comment if this post helped you (such as "Helpful") so I can gauge whether it's worth further cleaning & posting of such interviews.

Big takeaways:

  • Math is a good starting point for EA career development because it's widely applicable.
  • Prove to yourself that you can do and enjoy it, maybe by taking a challenging course in physics/statistics/coding.
  • Skill in coding and Excel is also a plus.
  • Have many conversations with your teachers and advisers in departments that teach EA-related concepts.
  • There's a distinction between pure and applied math. The latter might be a better fit for EA causes or people who are people-oriented yet want to study math.
  • Know the prerequisites for grad programs of interest. If you miss something, it might be offered just once a year.
  • Calculus-based math courses move fast. Make sure you're strong in algebra before proceeding.
  • Cold-email academics working on problems that interest you. Find out about their educational background, current work, institution, collaborators, and advice on a path to working on similar problems or at a similar level.

Project Ideas:

  • Write and vet a form email for cold contacting academics/researchers. It should be of appropriate length, well-structured, and ask the right questions.
  • List widely available precalc-based math activities that can demonstrate to oneself a significant inclination for math.
  • Interview summaries might be beneficial to the EA community.
  • List specific grad programs/professors working on EA-oriented projects. Get advice from current EA-oriented grad students on how to bring an EA approach to departments where it's not present.

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