In CHOOSEMATHS grant winner profiles



Samten Choden is a Mathematics teacher in Bhutan. She completed a Bachelors of Science in Mathematics from Pune University, India from 2008-2011. Currently she is in her second year of Masters in Mathematical Sciences at Australian National University. Samten wishes to return home and continue teaching Mathematics. During her time at ANU, and at the AMSI Summer School 2018 at Monash University, Samten has not only learnt more Mathematics, but also effective methods of teaching it. She cannot wait to graduate and go back home to teach her students the concepts and the ways she has learnt them here in Australia.

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

I am currently pursuing my Masters in Mathematical Sciences at Australian National University as an international student. I work as a Mathematics teacher in Bhutan. The subjects that I am choosing each semester are those that I can teach to the students back home. I am studying more of Algebra and Statistics courses by being aware that these subjects would be the foundation for the students who aspire their career in mathematics. Bhutan being a very small country we do not have many (possibly zero) students interested in studying Mathematics and pursuing a career in it, I will have the greatest opportunity to share my experience from Australia and inspire the students particularly the female students.

You received a CHOOSEMATHS Grant to assist your attendance at AMSI Summer School 2018. How important was this in terms of your ability to attend and fully participate in the sessions throughout the program.

The CHOOSEMATHS grant was very important for me to be able to attend the AMSI Summer School 2018. I wouldn’t have been able to attend it if I had not been funded by CHOOSEMATHS. I could fully attend the lectures and enjoy all the events organised by AMSI purely because I didn’t have to worry about finances. I am very grateful for the free knowledge and luxurious stay at Mannix College. Everyday felt like a blessing.

How important are initiatives such as the CHOOSEMATHS Grants in terms of fostering the participation and achievement of women in mathematics, particularly in terms of access to networking opportunities and further training opportunities?

I consider initiatives such as CHOOSEMATHS Grants very important because above all it gives us the financial stability, which is one less problem to worry about while studying maths from the greatest minds in a renowned university. And also once the program begins we get to meet so many women studying Mathematics who are travelling on the same journey and sharing the same experience. Some who we meet during the program inspire us to continue learning and some become friends for a life time.

In what ways has the experience impacted your maths studies? Has it influenced the direction of your research?

Everyday was an inspiration during the 4 weeks of the AMSI Summer School 2018. Everyone was interested in learning the same thing and everyone had the same goal. My hard working classmates and the extraordinary professors
motivated me everyday. I have come back to my University with more eagerness to learn and explore. I am also now more confident that I will be able to get a degree.

What was the most valuable part of AMSI Summer School 2018 for you in terms of furthering your career in mathematical sciences?

The Tuesday lecture series were the most valuable part of AMSI Summer School 2018 for me. My friends from other background of studies always ask me how and where different courses of Mathematics are applied and I never had an answer till now because I was never told and I never bothered to explore how the topic I was studying could be applied in real life. After attending the Tuesday lecture series, I have so many answers for my friends. I am amazed at what Mathematics can do and I cannot wait to amaze my friends the next time they ask me.

A presentation on the AMSI Intern program was included as part of the Careers Afternoon. One of the aims of the AMSI Intern program is to maximise employability and help prepare research graduates to drive industry/private sector research. Are you hoping to work with industry? How important is this experience for researchers? Particularly in terms of offering career flexibility for women?

I work as a teacher back home and I enjoy the combination of Mathematics and teaching. I would love to continue teaching Mathematics. But I know for sure that the AMSI Intern program is very important and will be a very helpful experience for researchers like us. The program not only prepares us for what is stored in the future but it also gives us the opportunity to watch and learn from the experts.

The CHOOSEMATHS Grants are part of a broader program being delivered by AMSI Schools with support from BHP Billiton to turn the tide on Australia’s maths deficit and strengthen maths education and participation of women across the discipline. What do you see as the big challenges facing maths in Australia, particularly for women?

In my opinion the big challenges facing maths particularly for woman all over the world are : first having the courage and confidence to survive in a male dominated field. As discussed by the panel members during the STEM presentation, the biggest challenge is to prove our capabilities everyday and fighting our ways to make our work noticed. Next would be to have the willingness to never stop learning, to never give up. All the discouragements from the society, personal responsibilities and work should not affect us from doing what we love.

Did you always want to pursue a career in maths? Were you encouraged to study these subjects at school? Do any particular mentors come to mind? Any outstanding teachers?

Yes, I always wanted to pursue a career in Maths. During my school or undergraduate time I didn’t know I could do anything, that I now know, by studying Maths. I only knew I would teach just the way I helped my friends when they didn’t understand a problem in the class. I always had very inspiring Maths teachers and they all encouraged me to study Maths.

Where do you see yourself in five, ten years time?

As mentioned earlier I love the combination of Maths and teaching so even after five or ten years I see myself teaching Maths to the young kids and inspiring them just like the way my Maths teachers inspired me to love and learn Maths.

Any other feedback/comments you would like to provide on the CHOOSEMATHS grant or AMSI Summer School 2018?

The AMSI Summer School 2018 is a journey I will never forget for so many reasons. I saw a world of Maths I never heard or saw before. I found friends sharing common interests, I found motivation to work harder, I got to meet so many great professors. I would like to thank CHOOSEMATHS grant for giving me this opportunity. Everyday of the Summer School felt like a blessing. I will always remain indebted. I have gained so much from the program that I am sure it will be a big contribution from my part to be able to share it with my colleagues and students in Bhutan.