Oscar Vega (the one on the right) is a postdoc in geometry.
- Where were you born?
- Chile, the western "down under."
- Where did you get your undergraduate degree?
- Universidad de Chile.
- Did you start college majoring in mathematics? If not, what was your major?
- I started college majoring in Math, but that was after being rejected at the conservatorium.
- What courses or areas of study gave you trouble while you were an undergraduate?
- All the physics, in particular the Labs, I failed that class.
- What math class was the most challenging for you?
- Differential Geometry.
- When did you realize that math was of interest to you?
- I guess my friends and classmates in our equivalent to Junior High realize that before I did.
They use to follow me for tutoring!
- How did you know which area of mathematics to pursue?
- I took a class called Projective Planes when I was a senior; we read Hughes and Piper.
It was love at first sight. I knew I liked Algebra and Geometry...
- What do you consider to be your biggest accomplishment as an undergraduate?
- Besides graduating?
- What would you have done differently as an undergraduate?
- I guess I would have worked more on some subjects (differential geometry, for example)
and had more fun with Math. I used to think math was my job and it wasn't that fun. It
was always interesting, but I didn't enjoy it was much as I do now.
- What was your most embarassing moment as an undergrad?
- Besides failing a Physics lab class?
- What advice would you give to undergraduate math majors?
- Have fun, as much as you can (with Math and without). If Math will be part of your life,
you better get along with it.
- Are you the first PhD in your family?
- Where did you complete your PhD studies?
- The University of Iowa
- Describe your area of research.
- I work on translation planes. These planes are generalizations of the standard
"blackboard plane" that do not work as well as our standard Euclidian world. Most of the times
I work on finite planes, which means that there are only finitely many points in the plane. This
and the lack of a non-trivial way to define a distance make this world fascinating ... can we even
think about circles without a distance? If a line is the curve joining two points that
has the shortest length, then how do you generalize that in a world without distance?
- Why did you decide to join the faculty at UCDHSC?
- Because they offered me a job :-) Seriously, because it is not common to see so many people
working on finite geometries at a high level, all in the same department. I think this was the
best opportunity I could have wished. Hopefully, the department wanted me as well.
- What do you think is the biggest misconception about mathematicians?
- That they are absent minded and forget things. Also, that they are absent minded and
- How can an undergraduate get involved with the math department?
- I guess that talking to people about math and asking questions is the obvious way to go.
However, if you are shy like me, I think that by attending seminars, just by sitting there and
seeing how everything develops, could help you to create a certain confidence that will
eventually lead you to talk about math ... which is the whole idea!
- Where is your favorite place you have ever traveled?
- Visiting my family in Chile is my favorite trip, my favorite place. Besides that, I liked
Chiloe, an island in the south of my country; nice people, relaxing, great place to trek (I
didn't have much money so I HAD to walk a lot).
- What CD is in your car right now?
- CD player is broken :-( This morning I was listening to "Fear of Music" by Talking Heads.
- What is your favorite movie?
- "Underground" by Emir Kusturica.
- What is the best concert you have ever been to?
- I guess I should say The Cure, because after years of being a fan I finally could see them live.
But as a show, I guess that Spiritualized and Mogwai were much more impressive.
- What would you be doing if you weren't a math faculty member?
- Musician, DJ, frustrated soccer player, photographer.
- What is your favorite thing to do in your free time?
- Music related stuff, whatever.
- What is your favorite sport?
- What is your favorite food?
- Indian food; I prepare pretty good curries. I also like Thai and pretty much anything spicy.
No meat, please.
- What was your worst injury and how did it happen?
- Herniated disc in my lower back produced by excessive basketball playing on hard surfaces.
My denial says that my weight didn't have anything to do about it.
- If you could have lunch with anyone, living or dead, who would it be?
- Nice question. I would love to have lunch with so many people, but it would be embarassing me
to try to talk to such important minds... in math: Galois, Coxeter, Poincare, etc. In letters:
Wilde, Camus, Sartre, Suskind, etc. In "For Fun": El Diego (Maradona), Robert Smith, Charlie
Mingus, Serge Gainsbourg, Tom Waits, etc.
- Even though you have only been in Colorado a short time, what do you hope to do
in the state in the upcoming months?
- Besides doing research, teaching and hosting my own radio show? I don't think I will have
time for much.
- Outside of the university setting, what is the biggest difference between Denver
and your previous residence?
- Iowa City is a very small community, very quiet. etc (where you can hear the corn grow).
Denver is bigger, much more cosmopolitan. I can't say much more, I haven't been enough
- Tell us something about yourself that would surprise everyone.
- I have realized that people consider it surprising that I am a radio DJ. Strange but true.