Student Voices

Travel Report: Jemma Lorenat, France

May 14, 2014

Jemma Lorenat, a Doctoral student in Mathematics, received a Graduate International Research Travel Award to further her research in France. Her report:

My intention on continuing my PhD research in Paris was three-fold: research, mentorship, and intellectual community.

Broadly speaking, my dissertation topic considers developments in geometry during the early nineteenth century in France, Germany, and Switzerland.  While many of the published texts from this period are now available online, in Vancouver I had very limited access to other documents such as correspondence, drafts, and lecture notes.  Furthermore, in studying geometry the figures at the back of texts are imperative to a proper understanding, and unfortunately these images are often neglected or poorly copied in online format. The proximity to libraries and archives has greatly facilitated my research of all these documents, and I look forward to continuing my pursuit of relevant unpublished sources.

As a Cotutelle doctoral student, I am fortunate to have the support of two dissertation advisors. Fortunately, I have found the suggestions, encouragement, and criticisms of both my Canadian and French advisor to be complimentary. I have been introduced to a wealth of historiographical material and secondary literature through their different research backgrounds and from this should better prepare me to understand the potential international audience of my work.

Admittedly, the history of mathematics is a very small discipline worldwide, and this explains its very tiny presence at Simon Fraser University. Conversely, its epicenter is in Paris. As such, I have attended a wealth of related seminars in history and philosophy of science each week. These have helped me shape my research questions, as well as introduced me to a supportive group of academics with similar and tangential pursuits. Finally, I have had two opportunities to present my own research and gain feedback—which has taken my studies in a somewhat different and more interesting direction than initially intended.

The time spent abroad has been an invaluable addition to the depth and breadth of my doctoral studies. I am currently at work on composing material for a forthcoming article, which I will be reviewing and analyzing with some of my colleagues here in Paris at the beginning of next month.

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