**Title:** What we talk about when we talk about math

**Speaker:** Prof. Lillian Pierce, Nicholas J. and Theresa M. Leonardy Professor of Mathematics at Duke University

**Abstract:** In 1864, the mathematician J. J. Sylvester wrote:

*May not Music be described as the Mathematics of the sense, Mathematics as Music of the reason?…Thus the musician feels Mathematics, the mathematician thinks Music,— Music the dream, Mathematics the working life.*

What does it feel like to do mathematics? Can we share the dream rather than the working life? In fact, the experience of doing mathematics probably feels different to each of us. Mathematics is famous for being abstract. Each of us develops a way to represent those abstractions in our own head. Can we describe what we are doing? Can we see some universal patterns in how we feel as we do mathematics? We will share a wide array of mathematical stories, to study what mathematics does for us, and what we do when we engage with it.

Lillian Pierce began her study of mathematics in earnest as an undergraduate at Princeton, where she graduated as valedictorian. After studying in Oxford as a Rhodes Scholar, she returned to Princeton for her PhD, and then took up fellowships at the Institute for Advanced Study, the University of Oxford, and the Hausdorff Center for Mathematics in Bonn, before moving to Duke University. Her work has received an NSF CAREER grant, a Sloan Research Fellowship, an AWM-Sadosky Prize, a Joan and Joseph Birman Fellowship, and a Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers. Pierce is currently the Nicholas J. and Theresa M. Leonardy Professor of Mathematics at Duke University, a Bonn Research Fellow, and a Fellow of the American Mathematical Society.