Old about me




I was born in San Francisco in 1985. I went to Lowell High School, graduating in 2003. I then completed a BA in mathematics at Swarthmore College in 2007 and a PhD in math at University of Illinois in 2011. My thesis advisor was Nathan Dunfield.

I read a lot of fiction as a child. In a personal history of involvement with effective altruism I describe how this played a major role in the development of my interest in helping people. I had an inspiring chemistry teacher when I was 15, and became very interested in chemistry, and then physics, and then math. As a senior in high school, I really enjoyed helping other students with calculus. I went on to work for three summers at MathPath, a summer camp for middle schoolers, taught math at Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology, and taught for Art of Problem Solving. I enjoyed working with the students very much.

Aside from studying math, while in college, I also developed a serious interest in classical music.

Going into graduate school, my favorite subject was number theory, but I hadn’t yet developed a clear sense for what sort of number theory I was interested in. The number theorists at University of Illinois were mostly analytic number theorists, and it turned out that my primary area of interest was in algebraic number theory, specifically, special values of L-functions and explicit class field theory. Since nobody at University of Illinois did research in this area, I decided to study hyperbolic 3-manifolds under the direction of Nathan Dunfield, from whom I learned a great deal.  My thesis is here. Aside from my research, I wrote an expository letter about the appearance of special values of L-functions in geometry and topology.  I participated on MathOveflow, a question & answer website for research math. I made a video in memory of my advisor’s collaborator Bill Thurston, who was the most significant figure in the study of hyperbolic 3-manifolds.

While I was in graduate school I came across GiveWell, an organization that finds outstanding philanthropic opportunities for donors. I had a long standing but latent interest in global welfare, and I found GiveWell inspirational. I began following GiveWell closely, did volunteer work for GiveWell, and eventually ended up working as a research analyst at GiveWell for a year. I learned a lot at GiveWell, both about the world and about how to reason about the world. I’ve written extensively about effective altruism. I’ve also done research for Machine Intelligence Research Institute on how well predictions of the future have fared and how  well society has managed global catastrophic risks.

During 2013-2014 I worked on Cognito Mentoring with Vipul Naik, an advisory service for intellectually curious high schoolers.

I’m currently available for hire as a software engineer or data scientist. Check out my LinkedIn Profile, my Github account and Stackoverflow Clone that I made using Rails and Backbone.js. You can reach me at jsinick@gmail.com.