What Is A Reedie 2019

Macaroni, Space Suits, and Mathematical Structuralism

Meet math/philosophy major Genya Zhukova ’19.

September 9, 2019

Major: Mathematics & Philosophy

Hometown: Chicago, Illinois, and Krivoy Rog, Ukraine.

Thesis advisers: Prof. Angélica Osorno [math]; Prof. Paul Hovda [philosophy]

Thesis: Cobordism Hypothesis: Macaroni as Mathematics [math];  Mathematical Structuralism and Identification Problems [philosophy]

What it’s about: My math thesis is an exposition of the cobordism hypothesis focusing on two dimensions. My philosophy thesis is about flavors of mathematical structuralism and some problems that they face.

What it’s really about: Math: How pictures make everything better. Philosophy: What are numbers really?

In high school: I was a math nerd, rock-climbing gym rat.

Influential professors: Prof. Eddie Cushman [philosophy] showed me that philosophy wasn’t just all old Greek dudes. Meg Scharle [philosophy] taught me that even the old Greek dudes can be engaging. Mariela Szwarcberg Daby [political science] showed me that there is space in academics for things that don’t just revolve around “theory.” Adam Groce [computer science] taught one of the best classes I’ve ever taken—Comp Comp [Computability and Complexity]. My two thesis advisors, Angélica Osorno and Paul Hovda, are perhaps most influential because they not only taught me some very, very cool material and pushed me to do my best, but were also incredibly supportive during some of my hardest times at Reed. Additionally, Rodney Sofich [outdoor specialist] isn’t really a professor, but taught me more about facing down my fears, while being smart about it, and I will always be grateful for that.

Influential books: Abstract Algebra by David Dummit and Richard Foote; Introduction to the Theory of Computation by Michael Sipser.

Concept that blew my mind: Since all and only overlappers of cats are overlappers of cat fusions, the fusion of all cats is the same as the fusion of all cat fusions.

Cool stuff: I organized for the math student colloquium, worked with some awesome students as a tutor and course assistant for the math department; participated in STEMGeMs, the Mountaineering Club, Peer Mentor for Minorities and Philosophy; and was a Griffin Guide. I got the opportunity to work with a local organization called Pacific Spaceflight, which is committed to democratizing space travel, and got to build my very own pressurized space suit! Throughout my time at Reed, I volunteered with Russian Oregon Social Services.

How Reed changed me: Reed caused me to grow into a more critical thinker and a more compassionate person.

Awards, fellowships, grants: The work I did the summer after my sophomore year was sponsored by the Reed Summer Internship Grant.

What’s next: In the fall I will be starting a PhD in mathematics at Stony Brook University.