Spotlight on Research: Moor Xu

Interview by Sheila Ramaswamy

1. Can you tell us a bit about the project you are working on?

My project is on expanding the theory of weighted graph limits. A graph is a mathematical object with vertices and edges that can be used to model real world phenomena such as the internet; I am working with limits of sequences of graphs as they become denser and more complicated.

2. What made you interested in doing research? How did you get interested in the specific topic you are researching?

I first became interested in math in middle school and high school, and I’ve always thought that math is really cool. I took a few combinatorics classes at Stanford and decided that I wanted to learn more. That’s why I decided to pursue an honors thesis in combinatorics. I chose my specific topic in combinatorics through a random walk; I looked through a bunch of books on the topic until I found something that I wanted to study in further detail.

3. What types of challenges did you encounter while doing you research? Were you able to overcome them?

In mathematics, it’s easy to get stuck on a problem. There were a few times when my project stalled because I didn’t understand a basic definition or couldn’t figure out how to show a result. It often feels like I’m bashing my head against a wall for a few days at a time, but when I keep working and asking questions, I eventually get some key insight and understand a bit more about my problem. That feeling of realization is what makes math feel so rewarding, and that’s what I’m always working toward.

4. What advice would you give to other students interested in doing research?

My advice is that they should definitely pursue the opportunity to do research. They should make friends with professors and ask them about their research, and find a common topic of interest. Treat research as a learning experience, and try to discover something cool!