Taylor Brysiewicz: Finding the Magic in Mathematics

Author: Lily Brouder

One mathematician’s journey began in an unusual place: the study of music.

Before Taylor Brysiewicz was a postdoctoral research associate at the University of Notre Dame, he was a music major in his undergraduate years at Northern Illinois University. While he loved playing music, he realized that he became less interested in it with his further studies. 

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“The more I learned about music, the more I understood it and the less magical it felt,” he described. “The complete opposite was true for math. Math seemed unmagical and algorithmic initially, but the more I learned about mathematics, the more fascinating it became.”

After obtaining his bachelor’s degree in mathematics, Brysiewicz earned his doctorate in mathematics from Texas A&M University. He then went to the Max Planck Institute for Mathematics in the Sciences in Leipzig, Germany before ultimately coming to Notre Dame to work under Professor Jonathan Hauenstein in the Applied and Computational Mathematics and Statistics department. 

At Notre Dame, Brysiewicz works on computational algebraic geometry, or the use of computers to study the relationship between polynomial equations and shapes formed by their solutions. Within this field, he uses a different approach to a classic problem from mechanical engineering. When examining how many possibilities exist for a robot to move through a collection of points, there are often many theoretical solutions but only few can be physically constructed. He examines patterns among these not-physically-relevant problems in a larger context, in order to apply that understanding to individual cases. 

Brysiewicz says working in a tenure-track academia role is “the dream,” but he knows that whatever he does next will definitely involve computers. “The nice thing is, what I want to do next, research-wise, I will discover later in my life,” he says about his work in mathematics. “The problems will keep coming… sometimes there’s problems that you carry throughout your life.”

He reflected on his career leading up to his time at Notre Dame and admitted: “ever since starting my Ph.D, I’ve always wanted to do a postdoc here.” Both academically and personally, Notre Dame felt like a great fit for Brysiewicz. Upon coming to Notre Dame, he shares that his academic collaborators have made the experience excellent. “ …colleagues make such a big difference here,” he said. 

When he’s not solving computational algebraic geometry problems, Brysiewicz is still playing music. This semester, he is learning how to play drums. Ultimately, he finds the creativity that he always loved in his work.

“Music and art were the only opportunities I had as a young person to really create something that was my own,” he described. “Being a professional mathematician is very much about creating things.”