I'm in a very unfortunate situation. I have B.S. from Computer Science and I change my field to Applied Mathematics for M.S. (because of recommendations of my colleagues from research).

In CS I was pretty good, I finished with Dean's award for Bachelor thesis (that's why I was offered a part-time position in research), but now I'm struggling heavily to even pass the first term in Math. CS program was concentrating on programming, so we had only single-variable calculus, basics of linear algebra and some graph theory.

Now I must take exams from Functional Analysis, Complex variables, Partial differential equations etc. and I'm afraid I'll not be able to pass them. I was able to pass lesser tests and projects, but I need a lot of time for every single problem and now, before exams, I see how many things I don't understand.

Additionally I'm suffering from high-blood pressure since I was 15, but now is my condition worsening very fast (probably because of stress). I feel tired, depressed and dizzy very often.

So, is it appropriate to ask the one professor, who is the head of department, about possibilities of suspension or simply going again into the first year of M.S. next year?

Maybe I'd like to ask him about his opinion about my talent for this, because I've never experienced such setback in school and so it's possible I'm simply too silly to comprehend Math.


I'm studying in the Czech Republic.

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    Perhaps it is useful to comment problems in advanced mathematics tend to take a lot of time and that is the nature of the course and you taking time for these problems is no comment on your ability. – T K Jan 7 '16 at 11:16
  • Please say what country you are studying in when asking questions like this. Practices vary massively arround thw world. – Peter Green Jan 7 '16 at 11:29

To me it never hurts to discuss possible options. Complex mathematics can be a difficult hurdle to cross and it seems you're making a leap from basic math to university-level math without being prepared for it.

Explain your situation in detail. I'm sure this isn't a first for the head of your department and maybe (s)he can suggest some courses which might help you in catching up with the program.

I'd keep your high blood pressure problem out of the discussion.

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    Upvoted for suggesting to keep the health issue out of the discussion with the prof. If the uni has a dedicated health support, a separate thread could be started there. – Captain Emacs Jan 7 '16 at 14:52

If you are looking to withdraw (I'm guessing that is what you mean by suspend). It is worth speaking to your universities disabilities coordinator. Both long-term blood pressure problems, and depression are both (at least where I am) the kind of disabilities they deal with every day.

The disabilities coordinators tend to have all kinds of special powers to adjust the rules. Such as the capacity to withdraw without it showing on your record, even after various cut off dates are long past.

Secondly, they will be keyed into exactly who else who you should see at the uni, such as psychological counselors; and likely what kind of classes exist for catching up etc.

In my experience (which is pretty limited) most professors have no idea what is going on with anything even remotely administrative, like withdrawing (Which i don't think is unreasonable -- it is a totally different skillset). Exceptions apply for heads of school and various people who are secondly billed as course coordinators. But even then there were better student admin people to talk to.

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While both computer science and math are highly technical subjects, and the skill set is somewhat overlapping, many aspects are quite different. As a caricature (it is, of course, not always true, especially in high-class algorithmics), in writing software one often has a clear route, once the concepts are in place, of how to proceed.

In math, even the simplest problem statements can have highly non-obvious solutions (for an example, see Simon Singh's book on Fermat's problem, where there is a simple geometrical conjecture which remained unproven for 80 years until an elementary proof was found).

There is no reason to feel bad about that. Math is hard, and once you have seen top mathematicians at work, you will realise that there is essentially no upper limit to how much better these people can be compared to even strong students.

Most importantly, if you enjoy the topic in itself, try to find a route which gives you enough time to catch up, perhaps part-time or similar, until you get the hang of it. If, even with slowing down, you do not get the hang of it, it's probably not for you - but you should definitely try to give yourself more time. CS most likely did not provide you with the skill set of a general mathematician, so you definitely need time to adjust.

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It also depends if you want a career in academics, or not (or maybe not really, read on).

If you want to go into industry later on, you'd be surprised how irrelevant the specific title from university often is. If you have a M.S. in a technical field from a good university and 3 years of industry experience, in 95% of the cases it won't ever matter anymore what specific field the M.S. was in. Therefore, if you want to go into industry, I recommend you to do an M.S. you can enjoy doing, that's the most important. To answer your question, in that case do not simply repeat the first year of the same M.S. - talk to the professor and also discuss the option of doing a different M.S.

If you want a career in academics, it obviously does matter a lot what field you did your M.S. in, and it matters even more what specific knowledge you gained during your M.S. - however, if you can't enjoy the field now there's a chance you won't enjoy it later. Especially since you mention depression, I know some people who finished their PhD, got hit by a real hard depression where they could do zero work for a couple years, and had to start a new career that ignored all of their academic work.

In summary, this is too big to not talk about with someone. Maybe it's best to pursue the current M.S. maybe it's best to repeat a year, maybe it's best to start industry work right now with a B.S. Maybe your Head of department can even offer you a job at one of the university's start ups - the world sometimes works funny like that. If your head of department can't help you they should be able to refer you to someone else who can.

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I would definitely go talk to someone. It doesn't neccessarily have to the head of the department, but discussing the possibilities with someone from the faculty would be a good idea. After all, starting again one year later (if that is what you want) is far better then spending your time on something you don't want to do

Also worth mentioning is the possibility to go to your other proffessors (who teach you analysis, lingebra ..) and asking them for a personal consultation. They can help you not only solving equations but often times can offer a valuable insight to your situation.

By the way, if I can bet, you are studying Applied maths at FJFI ČVUT (I am as well). The teachers there are one of the best at dealing with such situations and usually won't let you down.

If I am correct (and even if I am not !) I would go see the "garant" (no english translation AFAIK) of your field.

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