I’m a calculus teacher at Cergy, in the northern suburbs of Paris. Doing math, or rather physics, when my garden, cats and students let me do so.
Here is my academic CV, regularly updated:
Born 05/25/1973 at Bucharest
Romanian and French citizen
1991-92: First year student, University of Bucharest
1992-94: Student at the Ecole Normale Superieure, Paris
1994-96: Ph.D. student at Paris 7 University
1996-98: CNRS researcher, Institute of Mathematics of Marseille
1998-99: CNRS researcher, Institute of Mathematics of Paris
1999-00: Charles B. Morrey Jr. Assistant Professor, UC Berkeley
2000-04: CNRS researcher, Institute of Mathematics of Paris
2004-09: Professor of Mathematics, University of Toulouse
2009- : Professor of Mathematics, University of Cergy-Pontoise
I’m now about 50, and boy, that was a complicated life. Here is as well, in more detail, and skipping some personal stuff, how it all happened:
I was born in May 73, in the northern suburbs of Bucharest. My parents Constantin and Manuela were both mathematicians, doing algebraic geometry. I have a sister Valeria, a bit younger, doing now PDE.
The first words I learned as a kid were Mom, Dad, fiber bundle and Grothendieck. I always thought of Grothendieck as a bizarre and fascinating creature, living in a cavern. Probably not that far from reality.
So, grew up in northern Bucharest. Cool place. Big housing projects, concrete all around the place. My first souvenir in life is blood. Guys cutting another one, in plain daylight, in the public park. Hope he survived.
We moved to a fancier place in 1980, kind of a mixed-class area, closer to downtown. Big flat this time, and math things going on. We had countless guests for dinner, including once Atiyah himself.
We were on the wrong part of the Iron Curtain, but western culture and news were penetrating there. Passed a few problems with food and heating, it was basic 80s. Reagan, Thatcher, Madonna and Michael Jackson.
As I kid, I was particularly shocked by the Challenger disaster, as well as by various bombings, around the world. With a buddy, we decided to do bombs ourselves. That’s how I got into chemistry, and applied science.
The highlight of our holidays were the visits to my father’s family. Small town, near the Dracula castle. My grandparents were true folks, former cop and cook. No warm water, “what for”, and a pig in the basement.
On my mother’s side, they were rather bourgeois, former high-school teachers. Grandpa was a keen swimmer, and later a Jesus freak. Grandma was shy and polite. They divorced, shortly before dying, end 80s.
Besides our big flat, we had as well a Beetle, and life was quite fun. There was though this food problem. Ever-present. For everyone. All these freight trains going West, carrying there all the food that we needed.
Childhood and school were fun in the 80s, once you had the correct 80s gear, and here I was lucky, my parents were buying me some. I used to be thin and tall, but doing pretty decently at school fights.
I was rather into chemistry, and then biology too, but ended up in doing math, like my parents. There was actually a big math tradition in Romania, with olympiads and camps and so on, and that was really nice.
My weakness was geometry. My parents told me once about coordinates, and I liked it, and as a bad kid, I started to solve all problems with coordinates. The professors were completely pissed off. Lots of fun.
Boy that was something. I was 16 when that happened, and with the other high-school folks, we all got completely crazy. Big meetings, and firing professors. Doing bad things in the street. Whatever.
I was still doing math, along with bad things, and lots of sport. Going to math olympiads, that was fun. In parallel, I started reading lots of books, previously forbibben. Sold in the street, like sandwiches. True culture.
With the other folks, we were calling ourselves “rightwing hippies”. No one really remembers the precise meaning of that. Most of these crazy Eastern guys later emigrated to the West, messing up things there.
I went to Bucharest University, as a freshman in math, in 1991. My parents died shortly after, in an accident, and friends of them helping, I ended up next year, in 92, for studies in Paris. My sister joined me too, later.
I was lucky to live and study at the ENS, a wonderful place. Still remember the student bar there, with countless beers, pinball and pool, and heated political discussions with the French guys. Lots of sports, too.
I was planning to do number theory, but I ended up in doing operator algebras. That was a bit bizarre, back to my childhood, the rivals of my father’s algebraic geometry group being precisely.. operator algebras.
I was a quite active and motivated guy, and did my studies quickly. With Skandalis as PhD advisor, and Connes as big boss. Then in 96 I got my PhD, and my first job. A very good one, CNRS researcher in Marseille.
I didn’t like Marseille, went back to Paris, then bought a one-way ticket to Berkeley, came back one year later to Paris, spent some time there, then went to Toulouse, and finally got back to Paris, or rather Cergy.
Quite messy all this. My personal life was even messier, but lots of fun, of course. Fortunately I managed to do some math, and when I eventually landed in Cergy, back in 09, I was having a 50-item publication list.
Cergy is a very nice place, on the outskirts of Paris. Solid math dept, mostly PDE people, doing serious work. And if you enjoy the countryside, which is what I do, after some initial hesitations, this is the place to be.
After getting there, I first doubled by publication list, getting up to 100. More recently, I got into exposition work. My main project is that of writing a series of 6 math books, and more on this on the “Research” page.
We’re now in 2020, during the great lockdown. What times. Personally I’m a bit scared, and bored as well, and I ended up into blogging. Besides this, I’m also writing a series of math blogs, linked in my “Research” page.