I am a full professor at Bronx Community College, CUNY. My love for mathematics was nurtured by my father, Dr. Elmer J Taylor, Jr. He made me feel like doing mathematics was the most noble thing that one could do.
Although I have loved mathematics from an early age, it was not until my second year of college that I majored in mathematics. I thought being good at math meant I should be an accountant or an economist. I was in a business calculus class when the notion of limit was introduced. My desire to understand the notion of taking a limit led me to calculus for math majors. I remember being terrified. However, something my teacher (the number theorist Peter Hagis) said stuck with me: “Take math until you can’t take it anymore- you’ll know when you can’t take it anymore”. This has been a guiding principle for me. There have been times when I thought I reached the “can’t take it anymore” only to realize that I had reached a temporary obstacle/frustration and there was more math in me. Now that I’m older (and tenured), I do mathematics because, well, it is who I am; I feel better about myself on days when I spend time thinking about mathematics.
I earned my Bachelors, Masters, and Ph.D. in mathematics from Temple University. My advisor was the number theorist Marvin Knopp. He was very supportive and encouraged me to do a post-doctorate at the University of Nottingham in the UK. This introduced me to the global community of mathematicians.
My mathematical strength is pattern recognition. What I love about mathematics is the movement toward understanding structure and relationships between objects; it is a calming feeling – like the first cup of coffee in the morning.
The advice I would give to young students? Say yes to opportunities! It is experience and reflection that develop discernment. Participate in a Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU). Find opportunities to do mathematics, with others, outside of your coursework. You are not only developing your mathematical ability but the social fabric that will propel your career.