Following her passion for complex maths problems has been just the ticket that ANU graduate Fiona Skerman needed to see the world.
Fiona graduated from ANU in 2011 and is currently completing her PhD in pure mathematics at Oxford University.
“I am in a very pure maths research group but we are working on an applied problem,” Fiona said.
Her research involves looking at the maths behind algorithms that can be used to explain how nodes within data networks connect to each other, such as social groups within facebook.
“At Oxford as part of our research we are encouraged to take opportunities to further our knowledge and so far I have been to conferences and workshops in 11 different countries,” she said.
Originally from Brisbane, Fiona first visited ANU in year 11 to participate in the National Maths Summer School.
“Coming to the National Maths Summer School gave me the courage to study pure maths,” Fiona said.
“I was always really interested in maths, but thought that meant I should study something related but more practical.
“Doing research in maths is so far removed from anything you do in high school.”
Fiona first enrolled in a Bachelor of Philosophy (Honours) at ANU because she was awarded a prestigious national undergraduate scholarship she knew she wanted to do a PhD right from the beginning.
“To do a PhD I knew that I had to do well in honours and the PhB gives you the opportunity to do smaller research projects along the way that prepare you for your honours research,” Fiona said.
“I would recommend the PhB to students, because if you are adventurous in the projects you choose it is going to be great.”
Fiona recommended that people should consider studying maths at university if they often find themselves daydreaming about maths puzzles.
“A good problem is not just one that you solve it and you’re satisfied. It’s one that you solve and you notice something while you are doing it that is interesting and leads to more questioning,” Fiona said.