Author: Rose_Zh

Meet Your 2017-18 Peer Advisors!

We’re looking forward to a great year, and to get you acquainted with us, we thought we’d answer some introductory questions!



Question #1: Tell us a little bit about yourself.

Adam: “I’m a senior double majoring in Applied Math and Econ. I’m a local, having spent my whole life in the Bay Area. I’m focusing on a profession in actuarial science and I’m preparing to take my first exam this upcoming summer. In my free time I play music with my band, even though we’re not very good we love to play.”

Eleanor: “I am a second year majoring in both Mathematics and Women’s Studies! I am quite active on campus with political issues and food justice, and like to think I offer a unique perspective on the math department and pursuing math in general, and am super enthusiastic about helping people that are passionate about math. I am originally from Colorado, so I like to spend most of my free time getting outside. If you’re looking for someone to philosophize about math and the world writ large with, I’m your gal!”

Lakshmi: “Hi! I am a rising junior majoring in Math, with a minors in Statistics and Industrial Engineering. I spend most of my time doing math and dancing, and when I’m not focusing on schoolwork I enjoy running, hiking, and being an active member of the greek community! After graduation, I hope to pursue a postgraduate degree in operations research or systems engineering. I would love to get to know you, so come by and say hi!”

Mike: “I am a third year Applied Math Major with a concentration in Data Science. I am interested in data analysis, mathematical computations, and any challenging and interesting math related issues. I am also a travel enthusiast, an amateur painter, and a very unprofessional photographer.”

Rose: “I am a fourth year student majoring in Mathematics. I spend much time dealing with math, but I also enjoy reading, baking, hiking, and learning new languages (especially natural ones). After graduation, I plan to continue my study in maths. If you have any question regarding course planning, major declaration, or preparation for standardized exams, or if you just want to chat, please feel free to come by.”

Wan: “Hello I’m a senior Applied Math major with an interest in Actuarial Science. In the very beginning I was an Arts major but eventually fascinated with math. I’ve been doing advising-related work for a few years. In my spare time, I enjoy traveling, reading detective novels, and photographing. I look forward to listening to your story and helping you out in the future. Please feel free to come by with any concerns.”

Winnie: “Hello! My name is Winnie and I’m a junior. I’m majoring in Applied Math and minoring in IEOR. I’m interested in pursuing a career in data science. Outside of school, I enjoy running, traveling around the world, and learning about different cultures.”

Question #2: What has been your favorite math class at Berkeley? What has been your favorite course outside of Math?

Adam: “Math 110. My favorite course outside of the math department was physics C10, also known as physics for future presidents. This was hands down the most fun, active, and engaging class I’ve taken at Berkeley. I highly recommend it!”

Eleanor: “My favorite math course so far has been math 113. I had never really explored algebra past elementary group theory, but Professor Abbott taught the course in a way that was captivating yet accessible. That course made it clear to me that who teaches a course is just as, if not more, important than the material itself! My favorite course outside of math was Gender, Women, and Work in the GWS department. Again, a fantastic professor, and really intriguing concepts that definitely changed my perspective on the world.”

Lakshmi: “My favorite math course has been Math 172, Combinatorics. The class was structured very differently, where the textbook was just a set of problems and we constructed the theorems and proofs through those problems. The subject matter was also really interesting. Outside of math, my favorite class was definitely Industrial Engineering 151, Service Operations Design and Analysis. In it, we used math to optimize the operations of the service industry, like hospitals and banks and other service providers. It was a super cool real life application of math.”

Mike: “My favorite math class at Berkeley is Math 55, where I learned about induction, logic, and probability, things that I found really useful in my future classes. My favorite class outside of math is Data Science 100, where I was exposed to many powerful data analysis tools and techniques. One thing that I love the most about DS100 is that all the data sets in the homeworks and projects are real data obtained from various sources, and you can often find interesting and surprising patterns from analyzing these data sets.”

Rose: “My favourite maths course has been 136, incompleteness and undecidability. The course material was fun and challenging, and the fact that, after discovering the incompleteness theorems, mathematicians started studying the degree of unsolvability instead of giving up is absolutely inspiring. Outside of maths, my favourite is Greek 1, which has helped me grasp the meaning of many mathematical terms.”

Wan: “My favorite math class at Berkeley is Math 113. I took it with Dr. Smirnov, he’s funny and super helpful. Abstract algebra is not easy for sure but he made it interesting and easy to understand. Meanwhile taking me to a upper level math world with more general concepts for mathematics.”

Winnie: “My favorite math class has been Math 55. It was an interesting combination of introduction to proof, logic, and probability. It was completely different from some of the math classes that I have taken before, and it has definitely opened my eyes in different areas of math! My favorite class outside of my major is Data 8. I found it as a fun class that has the perfect mix of math, stats, and cs. All the homework, labs, projects are all real-life related, and it has sparked my interest in data science.”

Question #3: What piece of advice would you give to your first-semester-at-Berkeley self?

Adam: “I’d tell myself to take a step back from stressful moments and focus on how to improve them, rather than let them get you down. I’d tell myself to stay focused on the big picture, and enjoy each moment of life for what it is, good or bad, because in the end, it’ll all work out if you try your best.”

Eleanor: “I’d tell myself to branch out even more than I did. While I took classes in multiple departments and academically explored my passions, I didn’t do much in terms of extracurriculars and getting involved in clubs is much easier when you’re an underclassman with fewer obligations.”

Lakshmi: “I’d probably tell myself to be less critical. It’s really easy to get lost and feel like everyone understands everything and you’re the only one who doesn’t. That’s honestly almost never true. I’d also tell myself to ask dumb questions and get help when I need it. The last thing I think I’d tell myself would be to prioritize my happiness and gaining new experiences. College isn’t just about the education, its about the memories you make and self growth you experience.”

Mike: “I would tell myself to be more active to explore different opportunities and resources on campus, talk to more people and learn from their past experience, and of course, don’t forget to have fun and enjoy the freshman year.”

Rose: “I’d tell myself to spend more time outdoor and put some effort into staying in contact with friends.”

Wan: “Since I was a transfer student, I have to get used to a brand new environment, I find out it’s very important that to take something I’m really interested in. In that way, I could be more confident and efficient on getting used to Cal.”

Winnie: “I would tell myself to put in more effort into exploring Cal. I feel like freshmen year was the perfect time to explore different clubs, organizations, and even classes!”

Question #4: What’s your favorite place to eat in Berkeley?

Adam: “Chez panisse. I’ve never been, but I assume it would be my favorite.”

Eleanor: “The Butcher’s Son on University Ave is the best food I’ve ever eaten. I made a point to go every week!”

Lakshmi: “Imm Thai. Literally the best thai food in Berkeley (and there’s a lot of thai food in Berkeley)”

Mike: “Aki Japanese Restaurant. Their minced pork rice is dope!”

Rose: “Wat Mongkolratanaram. Despite not being a Buddhist, I like going to this temple (or rather, its backyard) on Sunday mornings for authentic Thai food.”

Wan: “Simply bowl. I rarely eat in Berkeley, but I think poke bowl is healthy.”

Winnie: “Mount Everest! It’s a bit far but it’s definitely worth the walk.”

Career Path Interview (Spring 2018, Part I)

Interviewee: H.L.
Major: Mathematics
Year: Senior

1) Why did you choose maths as your major?
H.L.: I have always been interested in numbers, patterns and how things operate. However, upon entering college, I was introduced to political science, economics, philosophy, anthropology and other subjects, which caught so much of my attention that I considered majoring in one of those fields. Nevertheless, the attention was only momentary. Mathematics remained my favorite, and was hence chosen as my major. As I advanced, mathematics grew on me, and became my ultimate intellectual pursuit.

2) What are the areas of math that you have studied?
H.L.: Like most undergraduate math students, I took courses in calculus, linear algebra, real/complex analysis, abstract algebra, topology, ordinary/partial differential equations, discrete structures, set theory, etc. In terms of more advanced materials, I studied elements of measure theory, distribution theory and probability, functional analysis, Fourier analysis, approximation theory, analysis on PDE, matrix theory, computational group theory, ring, module, field, Galois theory, elements of representation theory, categorical language, algebraic topology, homological algebra, etc. I am also introduced to other branches of mathematics including mathematical logic and differential geometry.

3) Do you have any comment on these areas?
H.L.: Given my current maturity, I may not be qualified to give any deep comment about these subjects. However, the impression I have is that many topics in analysis and abstract algebra often resort to the study of linear algebra. Just to name a few, the concept of duality is one of the principal elements in the study of module theory, which is itself a generalized study of vector space over a field. In functional analysis, which is roughly speaking the study of infinite-dimensional vector spaces equipped with topological or metric structure, whose fundamental elements also include the Riesz representation theorems and dual of Hilbert and Banach spaces. In PDE, the solvability of second-order elliptic equations is firstly established by the existence of weak solutions, which turned out to be a consequence of what is known as the Fredholm alternative given the condition of a compact linear operator involved in the partial equation. There are also other topics in algebraic analysis where application of matrix theory is ubiquitous.

4) Which area is your favourite?
H.L.: Thus far, I am mostly interested in measure theory, functional analysis, and PDE.

5) What’s you plan after college?
H.L.: I recently applied to several Ph.D. programs. I wish to pursue graduate study primarily in the area of mathematical analysis.

6) Have you ever considered working as opposed to grad school?
H.L.: I have wanted to pursue an academic career since I was in high school. However, if things do not turn out well, I am open to opportunities in math-related industries.

7) Did your math research experience affect your perspective? If so, in what way?
H.L.: My participation in summer 2017 REU at Cornell University, and in directed reading courses at Berkeley definitely helped form my perspective on mathematical research. Prior to these experiences, I did not know what a life of a researcher would entail. It was not just about learning and being exposed to a vast amount of materials relevant to the research project, but also about honing my communication skills. By frequently discussing problems and concepts that I struggled to understand with other group members, I learned how to organize and present mathematical ideas in such a way that not only my partners, but also participants working on other projects, can understand. As a result, I received intuitive feedback, which helped me form fresh insights into difficult problems. Additionally, I find it very helpful and motivating to attend graduate seminars organized by faculty members as well as graduate students at Berkeley, even though my comprehension of the presented materials may not be adequate and may even be, a lot of times, absent. However, these seminars provide intuitions in terms of how materials I learned in graduate courses are used and developed. Thereby, they portrait a clearer picture of what the disciplines look like at the forefront and how important it is to communicate with other mathematicians about new ideas on unsolved problems.

8) Do you mind sharing with us your long-term career goal?
H.L.: Upon obtaining a Ph.D degree, I hope to get a postdoctoral and then a faculty position at some research university to fulfil my dream of teaching and conducting original research in mathematics.

GRE Math Subject Test Preparation Strategies


  • Official guide & official test practice book
  • Format:
    The test consists of one section which is 2 hours and 50 minutes long.
  • When is the test offered?
    In April, October and November each year.
    Note: The test registration deadline for the November one is usually before the time when the result of the October test comes out. So, it may be a good idea to register for both if one is in urgent need of a good score.
  • Nearest Location:
    Berkeley High.
  • Graduate programs that require GRE Math Subject Test score:
    Math & Applied Math.
  • Graduate programs for which a good Math Subject score would be helpful:
    Financial Mathematics, Physics, Statistics, etc..

Test preparation strategies:

  • START EARLY so that you will have enough time to review all the materials, and will be able to take the subject test again (which many people do) if necessary.
  • Start with a diagnostic exam: identify the topics that you are unfamiliar with, and master them.
  • Review ALL the concepts mentioned in the official guide, and relevant problem-solving techniques.
  • Practice a lot, practice often.
  • Mock exams: do the full length past exams under TIMED conditions, at a place where you are unlikely to be disturbed. (Speed matters!)
  • When practicing, mark the questions that you can’t solve even if you manage to guess the correct answer.

Test prep books:

  • Princeton Review: fairly exhaustive, but contains typos and errors.
  • Research & Education Association (REA): covers more topics than the actual test does, contains 6 practice exams, and is great for those who have a good score already but want an even better one.

Where to find past exams:

  • Google keywords like “old gre practice”, and the following forms shall be available online: Form 0568, 1268, 8767, 9367, and 9768.
    Note: If a URL is no longer valid, use the Wayback Machine to retrieve it.
  • Some are available at: (This webpage has some other information on test preparation as well.)
  • ETS has one past exam available on its website.

What if I don’t know about a certain topic yet?

  • Take a relevant course.
  • Learn the basics by reading a textbook and doing the exercises. (Here is a book-list for reference; you may search the topic in the second column.)

Other resources:

We [Lilian and Rose] are more than willing to share our Subject Test experience, and help you with your test preparation, so please come by our advising hours! Besides, I [Rose] have written up some test preparation notes for my own sake, and will gladly share them on an individual basis.