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Brandon V. Tran
Room W311
Year 2015
Course Mathematics


Hey, I am Brandon Tran. I'm currently a course 18 sophomore. I'll usually have my door closed, since I don't want mice getting in, but feel free to knock!

Random Thing

Also at some point, when Damien Jiang said, "Holy carp", I added "on a stick!" and so Damien got really mad. I proceeded to look up if this was a thing, and found bowfishing. Arrows are basically sticks, so yeah, it's a thing. Anyways, I'm often now associated with carp, like for Secret Santa, I received many tasty fish-resembling snacks. It's my tag for Smash.

Non-Academic Things I enjoy


In my free time, I read a lot of manga and have read or am in the process of reading Naruto, One Piece, Bleach, Fairy Tail, Reborn, Beelzebub, History's Strongest, Liar Game, Prince of Tennis, New Prince of Tennis, Eyeshield 21, Slam Dunk, Gantz, Air Gear, Deathnote, Negima, Black Cat, Toriko, Kuroko, Hunter x Hunter, Attack on Titan. I've watched FMA and Rurouni Kenshin.


Due to various reasons, I don't actually play video games that much anymore, but I'll still play the occasional smash game now and then. I haven't been to a tournament in a while, but I mained Marth.

I also enjoy random RPGs or MMORPGs. I've probably played nearly every MMORPG at some point or another. I also used to play a lot of FPS games. I never really got into Halo, but I played some Call of Duty MW2 even though I thought it was a really stupid shooter. Then I played A LOT of Battlefield Bad Company 2, clan with a 99% win rate or something. Then my XBox red-ringed a year out of warranty so whoops.

Hmm, I've also played all the Pokemon games and was into competitive battling for a short period of time. I really like playing random things on emulators, like Fire Emblem, Golden Sun, or Pokemon. These are nice because I can just play them while sitting in the lounge or something, and they don't take too much time/effort/thinking.

A really good phone game I have for when I'm in transit or bored in class or something is Puzzle and Dragons. It's the most downloaded game in Japan, and the company that owns it just passed Nintendo, so it's a pretty good game :P

Not Gaming!!

I also like playing random card/board games with hall, like Fish or Galaxy Trucker. I also play bridge, but I'm nowhere near as good as the other hall members.

I also have a bad habit where if I start reading a book, I'll have to finish the series, no matter how bad it is. This is not actually that bad on its own, but together with the fact that every time I'm in an airport, I buy a book for the flight, it becomes a pretty bad habit. Recent things I've read are lots of Star Wars (Wookiepedia yeah!), Song of Ice and Fire, and Malazan Book of the Fallen. My favorite fantasy series so far, though, is probably Wheel of Time.

Things where I have to move?!

I've heard that moving is pretty hard, though I wouldn't know cuz I don't do it.

On a more serious note, though I'm pretty much a lazyass, I'm usually up for a game of Ultimate Frisbee. I guess I'll also play basketball if there are enough people who want to, maybe. I used to play competitively, for some definition of play and some definition of competitively.

Currently, I'm on the MIT Ultimate Frisbee team, and I guess I also regularly lift, MWF.


I also love food. It's one of the main pleasures of life. I'm always up for trying new cuisine or a new restaurant, or going to something like O'Sullivans for the nth time.

The only thing I don't like is Ethiopian food, and maybe Persian food, but anything else is fine (though maybe I just went to a bad restaurant, so I can be convinced to try them again). I joke that I'll eat anything that doesn't move, and maybe some things that do (I think I had a snail that moved once in Vietnam, not sure). This is pretty much true. I've eaten weird things. Motto: Eat first, ask later.


I'll watch most "good" movies, but my favorite genre is action. When I sit down for a two hour long film, I want there to be a lot of cool effects and explosions. Whenever a new superhero or other action movie comes out, Josh and I will usually lead a hall trip to the theatres. When hall plays a movie in the Sects Lounge, I'll usually watch if I'm not busy, just because watching movies with hall is always amusing.

TV Shows

This past year, I've only watched TV shows with hall, like Community, Sherlock, and FMA. In the past and on my own time, though (summers), I've seen House, 24, Chuck, Burn Notice, and Franklin and Bash. Of course, we all watch Game of Thrones as well.

Extracurriculars?! (What the hell are these)

Uh, yeah, I don't really know what these are...

Does the UMA (Undergraduate Math Association) count?


As I said, I'm course 18, declared early sophomore standing. I don't really know what math interests me yet, but I did a number theory REU over the summer and liked it a lot. At some point, I thought I didn't like analysis, but the REU has given me cause to reconsider that. I probably will take some Harvard courses over the years, so people who are also interested in some Harvard classes should let me know. Besides math i'm also interested in TCS, though maybe this is basically math, I don't know. My advisor is Jacob Fox (what a god).

I used to think I wanted to do some sort of physics or CS (not TCS), but have decided that physics is too bashy and coding is way too hard.

Classes Taken

Fall 2011

18.701- Artin is a great instructor, though I didn't particularly like the problem sets and thought the tests were too easy.

8.09- Surrow was also a great instructor. He was extremely approachable (I went to office hours every week). Though the ideas behind the course material were really interesting, I found the computations too much.

24.900,- I've heard others say they enjoyed this class. When I took it, though, well I guess the online ratings speak for themselves...

7.012- I heard Landers was good, though I never watched or attended lectures. Some of the problem sets actually had problems that required thinking instead of copying from the book. That was nice.

Knot theory seminar- I had a lot of fun in this seminar. There were lots of cool new ideas.

Winter 2012

8.20- I only took this class because it was a REST, and I was still on P/NR.

I guess I also spent a lot of time reading/doing psets for 6.046 and 18.100.

Spring 2012

18.702- I attended around 2 lectures total. This had nothing to do with Artin's instruction though (he is a great lecturer). I had just already read the book. Again, I found the problem sets and tests not difficult enough to consolidate my knowledge.

18.901- I attended this class even less than 702 and so I don't know anything about Vertesi. I had fun with the problem sets, though. Some of the problems were pretty good, though others were quite annoying, but hey, can't win 'em all.

18.312- I strongly recommend taking this class (at least under Stanley). The "challenging" problems he put on the psets were very fun. The easy problems were never really bashy and could be finished quickly, leaving time to work on the nice problems. Also Stanley is a great lecturer.

18.783- I took this class the first time it was offered. It focuses a little too much on computation for me, though this changed drastically at the end (proving Fermat's Last Theorem yeah!). I think for previous years, our comments will be taken into consideration and the class may focus more on the math side of elliptic curves.

6.851- Another amazing class I took this year. Maybe I'm just biased because it was my only grad class and so went at a fast enough pace that I had to really pay attention to keep up. I found the material very interesting, though the problem sets were a bit too easy so that I didn't really feel like I grasped the material. Where I consolidated my knowledge was the open problem sessions, since in seeing stuff applied, I was able to understand it. Demaine's also a great lecturer.

21L.011- For a CI-H, this class was pretty fun. I enjoyed the first half, watching actual feature films and talking about them. The second half, though, when we started going into obscure avant-garde stuff, I got very lost, but whatever. The grading seemed very harsh, as no one but the amazing Jon got an A on the essays, but in the end the final grades were heavily curved.

Fall 2012

18.905- Honestly, I didn't like this class so much. The psets always felt too easy to the point where I could do them without really knowing the material. There was also a final, which was ludicrous! Math classes shouldn't have tests....

18.415- This was a very good class. I didn't attend many of the lectures, but the problem sets had some really neat problems, and I can say I learned a lot from this class. I also hear Karger is a good lecturer.

3.091- Whoever tells you this may as well be 3.09fun is lying. I suppose it's better than the other chemistry classes (painful 5.112 or clicker attendance 5.111) but still none of it made sense.

14.01- This may as well be called 14.0difficult, as many on this hall found this class way too hard. It didn't help that the TAs didn't seem to know English, so every test started with half the students raising their hands for a clarification question.

Harvard Math 223a- Rabinoff I thought was a really good lecturer. I found the psets to be challenging and long, but it certainly helped to attend session (recitation). Overall, I enjoyed this class a lot.

Spring 2013

18.906- This was a great class. Mark Behrens is a really good professor, very accessible and cares about his students. The only piece of advice I could give is make sure you know something about differential geometry and Lie groups or else the last few psets will consist of lots of Googling.

18.785- Honestly, I did not like this class very much. The psets were never edited and so contained tons of mistakes. We reached the point where the professor told us in class that on the psets, we should fix the problem and then prove the correct statement, which meant that I would basically just make up problem statements, sometimes trivial, and prove them. Then I would always worry that I had corrected the problem wrongly, since the statement was now so easy, but then I never lost a point. Professor Kim was extremely nice, but could be hard to understand. I guess it doesn't matter anyways because the math dept. is changing the curriculum.

Math 223b- This class was significantly harder than its fall counterpart. As someone in the class stated, homological algebra seems like something you never learn as an undergrad and then are expected to know as a grad. There was a LOT of abstract nonsense, and all of a sudden a bajillion prerequisites were required. I definitely fell behind near the end with no hopes of catching up, since I just didn't know enough math.

14.15- There isn't much to say about this. I never went to any lectures or recitations. The TAs graded everything, so it was basically a free A. For our final project Josh and I played some stupid game and then wrote up some stupid results and got an A. It just seemed like a blow-off class, since it was listed as an econ class, but required some math, which meant that you could just ride the curve from the econ majors.

Listening in on 18.125 (too scared to take a class with Rodnianski)- Rodnianski is actually a good lecturer. His style is very different; instead of just lecturing, he proceeds through 2-3 pages of a book each lecture because he has the students come up with all the ideas. He'll state a theorem and then give some hints as to how to prove it and then as a class, we would go through the proof. So students got to suggest lots of ideas. It basically ran like an AoPS class.

Also listening in on Math 229 at Harvard- I actually liked Professor Bourgade a lot. I was also the only student who attended these lectures (and I wasn't even enrolled) which meant that we proceeded at my pace, skipping things I had already seen and slowing down when I didn't get something. One on one lectures with a professor, while extremely intimidating, are actually a giant gift, and so I enjoyed this experience immensely and learned a lot.

Planned Fall 2013

Some subset of 18.725, 18.965, Math 230a, 18.155, 18.917, 14.12


Feel free to ask me about anything: classes I've taken, life on hall, how to survive. I've already made tons of mistakes, so I'd be more than happy to share them so you don't do the same.