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Poketo People: Alex Schaefer

At Poketo, it’s the people around us that help keep it real. Inspired by their great vibe, this series puts the spotlight squarely on them, their aspirations and their brushes with the Poketo world. It’s also a great way to keep in touch, don’t you think? Yeah, we thought so too!

We read all your comments, especially when you take time to let us know we’re doing well…. which is how we found Alex, a mathematician with a love for art. Seriously folks, he got his M.S. in Math at 23. Oh, he takes great photos too.

He wrote to let us know how much he loves Poketo and that he’s been using Poketo’s wallets for more than 5(!) years. Naturally, we wanted to know the man behind the message, so without further ado, here he is.

(Spoiler alert: there is math talk, but also comedy and trivia thrown in. Get ready.)

Hi, Alex! Can you tell us a little bit about yourself?
Hello there! I’m 27, a Ph.D. student and Adjunct Professor of mathematics at the University of Binghamton. I moved to New York a month ago after finishing a Masters’ at the University of Kansas, and before that, my B.S. at Michigan Technological University (yes, I was a yooper). In short, it feels like I’ve been in college for my entire life.

Despite being a math nerd, I’m surprisingly social, I played tennis as an undergrad, and soccer for over twenty years. I’m a movie buff (gotta break up the math somehow!).

I play the guitar, and I know more than enough useless trivia (every swan in the United Kingdom is the property of the Queen).

I didn’t know that. Now, that trivia will come up in my next conversation. Thanks!

So, what three words describe you best?
I dislike summarizing.

What’s it like in Binghamton, New York?
Quiet. I love it here.

Could you share some of your favorite hangouts?
I love all sorts of movie theaters (aside from all the miscreants that can’t go 2 minutes without looking at their cellphone, in case the President texts them. Nobody’s that important. Nobody) and any place where I can have a stimulating conversation. Generally, I try to learn at least one thing any place I go!

Right now, what’s keeping you busy?
The semester! Teaching, taking classes, giving colloquia (research presentations)… typical grad student-y life.

You’ve always been studying Math it seems. You took it up for college and now getting your doctorate in it. How did you first get into Math?
I’ve been told my first words were, “1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9,10.” I didn’t learn this fact until a few years ago, so I guess I chose math.

What keeps you passionate about math?
In math, there are no “i before e except after c, or when sounded like a as in neighbor or weigh. Or weird exceptions. Everything is based on a concrete set of rules, and when you understand the rules, the fact that every single thing in math behaves the way it does makes perfect sense. Most people never get to the stage where they learn the rules (hence the general mysticism of math). I guess I had this… intuition that there was some method to all the madness.

There’s a lot of us who are intimidated by the subject. What’s the coolest thing you’ve found that you could calculate?
Wow. Something tells me “coolest” has an entirely different meaning to me than to a non-mathematician.

Umm… something that fascinates me is Gabriel’s Horn, a shape with infinite surface area, but finite volume (so you couldn’t paint it, but if it were clear, you could fill it with paint and it would look painted). The internet can explain it, if you’re interested, but aside from that “I think it’s cool,” I don’t think I should go into more detail.

Do you have a favorite equation? Is there such a thing?
Absolutely. The sum (from 1 to infinity) of the reciprocal squares is pi squared divided by six. It’s unbelievably unexpected, even to people who like this stuff ;)

How did you first find Poketo?
My undergraduate university, as amazing as that place is, is 200 miles from anything resembling civilization. So, anything interesting I wanted, I had to get online. A webcomic I read had a banner ad with a few wallets on it (“hey, those look neat”), and so the affiliation began.

I’ve carried a Poketo wallet in my pocket every day since my first one arrived in the mail around… 6 or 7 years ago.

Awesome! We love that you keep a Poketo wallet around for so long. What do you love about them?
Your wallets are the best! I love the individuality of not having a plain Jane brown or black wallet. I’ve had many, many conversations sparked by this. Also, the average bi- or tri- fold wallet makes me feel like I’m sitting on a rock. These are slim and minimalist: everything I need, nothing more. I’m hooked for life.

What Poketo stuff is on your current wishlist?
I already have my next wallet (as if there was any doubt). I think my next purchase will be some ideas notebooks (if they were graph paper, I’d probably already have them).

If you had the chance to realize a dream project, what would it be?
I’m doing it! I love thinking about some of the things I’m working on, learning, and the hope that maybe someday people will want to learn what I’ve thought of… It’s our version of fame, really.

If life could be encapsulated in one equation or symbol, what would it be to you?
Yikes! What’s the meaning of life? Well, a guess there’s your symbol. A question mark.

If you had one awesome piece of advice to give to anyone reading, what would it be?
Aside from the fact that Poketo is amazing? (is that the answer I’m supposed to give? Seriously, it is, though.) I guess I’d say… “Don’t be afraid of math. Or mathematicians. Well… some mathematicians.”

Haha. You could be a great comic too. Comic mathematicians, anyone?

Thank you, Alex. That was awesome.

Check out Alex’s photos on flickr.

Know someone we should talk to for our next installment? Send us a quick note. We’ll be glad to hear from you.

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