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Black History Month
2021 Honoree

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Cory Colbert

Cory Colbert

Assistant Professor of Mathematics

Washington and Lee University


Where are you from?

I was born in Petersburg, VA, and I grew up in Midlothian, VA.



Please describe an experience (or 2) that helped you discover/ cultivate your interest in the mathematical sciences.

When I was in high school, I had assumed that mathematical facts were just statements that were agreed upon by the larger mathematical community; I did not know you could prove them. My computer science teacher showed me how to prove theorems about the natural numbers using mathematical induction, and I was hooked. I knew I needed to study mathematics.


The second experience is when I attended my first ever math talk. It was given by a new professor in the mathematics department who studied analysis. He spoke about how to compute the volume of an n-dimensional ball of radius r, and then he showed a proof that for a fixed radius r, the volume tends to zero as n tends toward infinity. I was stunned and hooked! Fun fact: That professor, Kevin Beanland, is now my colleague here at Washington and Lee! 



What is/are your most proud accomplishment(s) in regards to your career in the mathematical sciences?

It feels really good to get better at mathematics and understand more today than you did, say, a year ago. I really like it when I can’t understand the proof of a theorem, or a difficult theory in mathematics, but then, after a few months (or years!), it finally clicks. When you look back at what you’ve come to understand, you realize that it was worth the struggle. Math is beautiful.



What is/are your most proud accomplishment(s) in regards to your personal life?

I’ve really gotten good at doing my flight simulations. I fly both X-Plane and Microsoft Flight Simulator 2020, and my favorite aircraft is the A321 NEO XLR. I also like the A350XWB for long hauls. I have nearly 1,000 hours of flight sim experience, and I love how much I’ve learned about airplanes and how they fly. Flight is awesome!



Please share some words of wisdom/inspiration.

One of the biggest regrets I have about graduate school is that I did not network a lot, and I did not work a lot with others. I think this made me feel really isolated, and I think it actually made studying math much harder. I later found that working with others is a great way to learn math. So don’t be afraid to network and do some math with your friends!