Arunima (Aru) Ray
Arunima (Aru) Ray, was born in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, but spent most of her life in a suburb of Kolkata, India. She attended the State University of New York in upstate New York, where she earned a bachelor’s degree in mathematics and biochemistry with highest honors.
When Aru started looking into graduate schools, she was seeking a university where she could find great research and be part of a small but active community, and Rice was exactly what she wanted. “The Mathematics Department is a close-knit community of folks who are simultaneously working on interesting problems, proving important results, are genuinely interested in the success and well-being of its students,” she said.
Aru works with Professor Tim Cochran in the fields of knot theory and low-dimensional topology. Knot theory is a surprisingly complex area of study with deep implications into the study of 3-manifolds (spaces which look like our 3-dimensional space). Aru explains in more detail: “In mathematics, we require knots to be like circles\—to illustrate this, take a piece of string, tie your favorite knot in it, then put the two trailing ends together and you have a mathematical knot. A plain old circle is the boundary of a disk in 3-dimensions. I study knots which are boundaries of disks in 4-dimensions (which ‘has a lot more room’ than 3-dimensions) instead and ponder what can be said about such creatures.”
Taking a break from her studies, and before major deadlines, Aru enjoys drawing with pencil and charcoal. Other creative pursuits include crocheting, knitting, tatting, sewing, cooking and writing. Her home is a designated ‘no-research zone’ where she enjoys reading (Harry Potter is a favorite), and spending time with her boyfriend and two kittens—Archimedes and Schrodinger.
Aru has been involved in student life in a number of ways—she was a Resident Assistant at Rice Graduate Housing for a year. Last year she was President of ISAR (Indian Students at Rice), an organization of Rice graduate students and postdocs from the Indian subcontinent. She has also served as their publicity and design coordinator and is now webmaster. Aru is also involved in the GSA as mathematics representative to the GSA council for the last three years, and a coordinator for Graduate Orientation last fall.
Individuals who inspire her have been abundant in Aru’s life, starting with her grandfather who taught her arithmetic (as a fun game) when she was three to four years old, to wonderful teachers through high school and college, including her Ph.D. advisor.
Her dream job is to be a professor someday—combining both teaching and research, at a university like Rice.