The alluring sophistication of mathematics

Publication date
Thursday, 6 Aug 2015

There’s a level of sophistication that really draws me to maths.

Third year student An Ran Chen isn’t afraid to spread her wings to discover new things. After moving from New Zealand to study mathematics at ANU, An Ran has explored philosophy and anthropology and gone on exchange to Budapest.

Despite living in Auckland, An Ran’s parents Catherine and Bruce travelled all the way to Canberra this July to join over 250 other parents, students and ANU staff for a ceremony at University House.

The occasion? An Ran was receiving a prize for exceptional marks in mathematics and computer science from ANU Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Academic), Professor Marnie Hughes-Warrington.

But perhaps An Ran’s interest in mathematics isn’t surprising seeing as both her parents Catherine and Bruce are successful structural engineers and her maternal grandmother was a mathematics teacher.

Some people would assume that mathematics is a very concrete discipline, but not An Ran who is studying the Bachelor of Philosophy (Hons) (PhB). It’s the abstraction of mathematics and the truths they tell that she finds interesting.

“There’s a level of sophistication that really draws me to maths.

"Especially the idea that we have these structures and truths in mathematics, and you’re looking at this going ‘this cannot be true’. But then you’re actually like ‘this is true because I just proved it!’”

To gain more experience in mathematics An Ran took some time off from her studies at ANU to attend the Budapest Semesters in Mathematics program in Hungary.

“I jumped in because my PhB mentor Joan Licata recommended the program because she did it when she was an undergraduate. It was really fun.”

However, despite her interest in mathematics An Ran points out the advantages in studying a variety of topics.

“Maths is really awesome, but it’s also fun to do different things. It’s good to have some kind of variety and also to hear other perspectives and other points of view.

“I do mostly maths and a little bit of philosophy and anthropology. It’s nice to have that breadth.”

Coming from Macleans College in New Zealand, ANU wasn’t the obvious choice at first, but An Ran and her parents did a lot of careful research before deciding the best place to study.

An Ran goes on to explain, “I came to ANU because there was a fantastic scholarship. Being able to engage in research from undergraduate level with the PhB is really cool. There’s nothing like it in the rest of Australia or New Zealand.”

The next step for An Ran is to continue courses in mathematics with a variety of other courses such as anthropology before deciding what she wants to focus on in her honours.

We wish you the best of luck An Ran.

Subscribe to receive our best science stories every month