Taking initiative to encourage cooperation and build community

Friday, May 21, 2021

Wherever Adina Goldberg goes, she leaves a trail of newly-created community events, academic initiatives and connection opportunities behind her. The Pure Mathematics PhD student and self-described “huge extrovert” carries the mantra: “Make things happen if they don’t exist – just build it yourself.”

When Goldberg moved from Vancouver to Waterloo, she left behind a local social puzzling event that she loved so she simply started a new chapter here in Kitchener-Waterloo. She also organized a backcountry canoeing trip for other Pure Math graduate students. Missing interactions with other students in her department during COVID-19, she decided to launch a Discord server so they could stay in touch. Despite the pandemic, Goldberg has proven she’s willing to take that first step to forge connections.

Notably, since January 2020, Goldberg has co-organized a series of graduate student talks jointly held between Pure Math and Combinatorics & Optimization to encourage cooperation and build community. “If you’ve met any mathematicians, you might not be surprised to find that they don’t naturally tend to go outside their social comfort zones unless nudged a little bit,” Goldberg stated. “Ten years down the line in your career as a mathematician, it’s important to have connections to other people that can get you so many places.” 

This essential idea of cooperation also shows up in Goldberg’s PhD research, where she explores how accessing a quantum state could help people solve problems together more efficiently. “What I’m working on is kind of like trying to get a handle on what quantum entanglement means, mathematically,” explained Goldberg. “So basically, what can be done from a quantum perspective that couldn’t be done from a classical perspective in terms of cooperation and communication.”

This cutting-edge research also requires Goldberg to connect with many others at Waterloo to get the full picture. “I can talk to mathematicians, but I can also talk to physicists, engineers and computer scientists. There are a ton of people with different backgrounds and viewpoints who are all working in these related areas.”

With a MASc in Electrical Engineering from the University of Toronto, a MMath in Pure Mathematics from the University of Waterloo and her current pursuit of a PhD, Goldberg is an experienced graduate student. Her advice to graduate students who want to make the most of their experience is, “Don’t just be another name in another office – be present and pay attention to people.”