In AMSI scholarship recipient
AMSI grant recipient profile: Benedict Bawagan

Benedict Bawagan

Australian National University

Hi, I’m Benedict, and I’m currently studying honours at the Australian National University in Canberra. I recently graduated from the ANU last year with a Bachelor of Mathematical Sciences and decided to return and continue my studies. I’ve always been passionate about learning mathematics, and I feel that doing an honours will allow me to pursue that while equipping me with necessary skills for a future career, either in academia or in something more applied. I don’t really have any sort of grand goal in mind – at the moment, I just want to learn about mathematics that’s interesting to me and enjoy the journey.

Can you give me a quick rundown about the type of mathematics you are studying and its potential impacts for the broader community?

I am studying representation theory for honours, which involves describing the elements of a particular algebraic structure by matrices and their operations. In particular, I am interested in the classification of the representations of Lie algebras, and the proof of the Borel-Weil theorem, a result in the representation theory of Lie groups. At this time, my studies are very theoretical; as such, it is unclear what the direct potential impacts of my studies will be. However, the skills I will develop during my study (for example, presentation and writing skills, research, etc.) can be applied outside of this context in whatever career I pursue in the future.

How did you get into mathematics/statistics/data science? Was there someone or something that inspired you to this field?

I was always good at mathematics as a kid – something about numbers always just clicked in my head, and I sort of just kept going with it. There wasn’t anyone or anything in particular that inspired me to pursue mathematics – I was always curious about mathematics, so that’s why I’m here.

You received a Travel Grant to attend AMSI Summer School 2023. How important was this in terms of your ability to attend, fully participate in the program and meet others studying in similar fields?

The Travel Grant was extremely beneficial in allowing me to attend and fully immerse myself in the program. There’s an atmosphere that’s missing when taking something remotely, and being able to participate in this program in person meant that I could contribute to and absorb this atmosphere. It was so refreshing being able to meet like-minded people studying in similar fields, which is an experience we’ve been missing for so long. I truly believe that being able to attend in person allowed me to get the most out of this program.

What was the most valuable part of the program for you?

The most valuable part of the program for me was the range of people that were a part of the program. I was definitely able to learn a lot and gain a new perspective on mathematics, not only from the teachers but also the students, especially those that gave student-led talks, the guest speakers, and the staff organising the event.

In the long-term, what do you think are the benefits of having attended Summer School?

The AMSI Summer School allowed me to broaden my horizons on mathematics and potential careers in mathematics. As a result of the Summer School, I was able to learn about an area of mathematics that was not accessible to me at my home university and about the wide array of industries mathematics was applicable in.

Summer School included a special Careers Day program which aims to help give students an idea of the kinds of career paths available to maths graduates in industry and private sector research areas. Were you previously aware of the types of industry opportunities available to mathematical science graduates?

Before the Careers Day, I was aware of some of the types of industry opportunities available to those in mathematics, but I was not aware of all of them (for example, Mecca Cosmetics was very surprising to me), nor was I that knowledgeable of them. I could see myself working in industry after being content in my research, though I would prefer working in academia as of right now. Thanks to the Careers Day, I am much more aware of the range of industries I could potentially work at with a background in mathematics.

What advice would you give to someone who is considering applying for Summer School in 2024? Should they apply and why?

For those considering applying for the Summer School in the future, I strongly recommend considering how passionate you are about mathematics/statistics/data science, and how much effort you would be willing to put into this program. Though there are a multitude of benefits, experiences, and opportunities the Summer School provides, you have to be an active participant to get anything out of it. If you think you will be, then the Summer School is an excellent program and I think you should apply.

Where do you want the mathematical sciences to take you? Where do you see yourself in five, ten years’ time?

I want the mathematical sciences to take me to an area of mathematics and a career path that I really enjoy. Honestly, I don’t know where things will take me, and I don’t know where I see myself in five- or ten-years time (except potentially completing or having completed a PhD). I just hope that I enjoy what I’m doing then, and that I enjoyed the journey I took to get there.