John Graef, mathematics professor at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, recently hit a huge milestone: The publication of his 500th academic paper.

“That’s one of the things that happens if you stay in a profession long enough,” he laughed. “Is it unusual? Yeah. There are probably not many people who have published that many papers, and I didn’t set out with any number in mind or anything like that. It just sort of happened over time.”

Twenty-one years ago, Graef came to UTC to head the Department of Mathematics and held the position for 15 years. Prior to that, he’d spent 29 years at Mississippi State University.

During his career, he’s built up a network of colleagues, collaborating on research and churning out papers.

“I work with a lot of different people on a lot of different kinds of problems, and I think that helps,” he explained.

By his estimates, he’s had somewhere from 150 to 160 co-authors. Working with folks from all over the world and the resulting friendships are a highlight of his career.

“I guess maybe that keeps me young,” he said. “Even as we speak, I’m working with some in Algeria, Turkey, Slovakia, Egypt.”

His advice for budding researchers or professionals? Don’t get frustrated when things aren’t finished immediately. Instant gratification isn’t the answer.

“You just have to realize I can’t get to that today.”

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Sarah ’14, ’16 earned an MA in English rhetoric and composition at UTC where she now works as staff writer; she enjoys hiking with her husband and two boys and spending time with her backyard menagerie of goats, chickens and ducks.

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