Ian Johnson

Mathematics, Class of 2023


I am a Mathematics concentrator pursuing certificates in Humanistic Studies and Creative Writing.

Role(s) held in the Humanistic Studies Program:

Certificate student, Humanities mentor, Behrman Undergraduate Society of Fellows

Activities on campus:

Christian Union, The Wesley Foundation, The Playwright’s Guild, Princeton Puzzle Hunt


Shapiro Prize for Academic Excellence, Honorable Mention for the Haarlow Prize

Why I decided to study the humanities:

Math gives me joy, but the humanities speak to the work of living in the world, among humans. They don’t supply us with the answers, exactly—that’s religion’s job—they show us how to seek-slash-make the answers. How to deal with stuff like beauty, morality, food, CRISPR, dread, politics, children, memory, language, the heart—what I’m trying to say is: I’m steeped in anomie, and science won’t help.

What I have gained from the humanities:

Here’s one thing: culture/society/philosophy/history all seem more contingent to me now. I’m a liberal, educated, 21st-century American, and I have been at times pretty chauvinistic about my aesthetic/ethical standards and patterns of thought—that attitude hasn’t survived the encounters with seriously foreign texts.

Independent work:

A JP on categorial logic, I hope? The math department keeps a tight leash. For my HUM thesis, possibly historical fiction or a monograph on math-poetry relationships.

HUM Sequence fall break trip:

In the fall of 2019, I went to Greece with Professors Baraz and Rentzou and wrote about one little painted lekythos in the National Archeological Museum. Besides being wicked fun, the trip made me consider dropping math for art and archaeology.

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