Former NFL Player John Urschel Joins MIT Faculty As A Math Professor

John Urschel is a former Baltimore Ravens player. The retired NFL athlete is now a math professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) after an exciting time in the league.

Urschel retired from the NFL at the age of 26 after reporting to camp and participating in a training session. “I really, really, really wanted to retire quietly,” Urschel told Sports Illustrated. “No one notice. Just retire and everything keeps on going, without a single story. Like one little byline, and that’s it. And then there’s nothing else, just ride off into the sunset.”

Following his retirement, he issued a statement about his early departure from the NFL. He stated his excitement about beginning Ph.D. studies at MIT in the autumn, and he said that his fiancée was expecting their first child.

However, his path to becoming a professor began two years before he chose to retire. In the spring of 2015, following his first year, he applied to MIT’s PhD program in mathematics to take classes in his spare time.

He earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Penn University and enrolled at MIT as a full-time student in the spring of 2016, during the NFL offseason. The NFL offseason is a time when teammates work out and relax. According to Sports Illustrated, he was living in Cambridge, Massachusetts, studying numerical linear algebra and random matrix theory, working on complex mathematical proofs, and attending lectures by visiting professors.

After three NFL seasons, he opted to retire in 2017 to pursue his passion for math. He received his PhD in mathematics in 2021, with a concentration on matrix analysis and computations, with an emphasis on theoretical applications for real-world circumstances.

For the Fall 2023 semester, he is one of 16 newly hired faculty members in MIT’s School of Science. According to MIT, he was a member of the Institute for Advanced Study and a junior fellow at Harvard University before returning to MIT this autumn as an assistant professor of mathematics.

Meanwhile, according to his faculty bio page, his interests include numerical linear algebra, spectral graph theory, and some areas of theoretical machine learning. Urschel is currently working to enhance diversity in the field of mathematics, where only 7% of academics are Black, according to Black News. He intends to accomplish this through motivating more black children to seek careers in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics.

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