José Mijares Palacios
Where are you from?
I was born in Caracas, Venezuela. In front of the Caribbean sea. I was raised in Barlovento, one of the largest African Diaspora communities in Venezuela. I moved to the USA in August 2013.
Please describe an experience (or 2) that helped you discover/ cultivate your interest in the mathematical sciences.
Since I was a kid, I had this inclination towards what we now can call “abstract thinking”. I remember many nights, as kid, lying on the ground watching the night sky full of stars, trying to understand the “limits” of the universe. My inner conversation was about “finite versus infinite”. I asked, “if the universe is finite then…” and a thread of reasoning would start. Later I would analyze “if the universe if infinite then…”. No surprise that I ended up studying Set Theory and Logic. Later in college, I had great mentors. For instance, Professor Carlos Di Prisco from Venezuela. Mentors that inspired me, recognized a potential in me (and let me know about it), and made me realize that I was part of their community. That I was a mathematician
What is/are your most proud accomplishment(s) in regards to your career in the mathematical sciences?
My research has been in Ramsey theory and its connections with set theory, logic and Topology. More specifically, I have worked in the theory of topological Ramsey spaces. Following the work of Stevo Todorcevic and others, some of my research papers have contributed to define the abstract framework of this theory, introduce new examples, and identify potential applications. I feel proud of those accomplishments. Right now, I’m working in connections between Ramsey theory, topology and neuroscience. It’s exciting.
I am also proud of my student mentoring. So far, I have supervised 6 undergraduate research projects, 5 master’s degree theses, one PhD thesis.
What is/are your most proud accomplishment(s) in regards to your personal life?
Being, without having planned it, an example of the possibilities that are there for others in my family and my community. To wake up every day sure that whatever we have accomplished can serve as a guide for others.
Please share some words of wisdom/inspiration.
Patience is underestimated. Our society seems to prefer quick fixes and immediate satisfaction, even in the fields of education and knowledge. More so now, in the era of social media. “Being stressed” or “being depressed” seem to be the most common mindsets. I would like see more educational spaces and initiatives to cultivate patience, mindfulness, meditation, joy. The effects at the individual level and the effects on the community and the society at large would be invaluable. More than diplomas, we need a healthier society. Educational spaces like universities and colleges could be a starting point for that healing.