In AMSI scholarship recipient

Fern Gossow

The University of Sydney

In 2021 I completed my Honours at the University of Sydney, learning about the Kazhdan-Lusztig theory of Specht modules and how representation theory builds connections between algebraic structures and the combinatorics of Young tableaux. In September I will begin my PhD at the University of Oregon, where I hope to continue studying in the fields of algebra and combinatorics. I also have interests in category theory, group theory, and the philosophy of mathematics.

Outside of mathematics, I like to read and go for long bushwalks. I am hoping that my travels around Oregon will be able to match the natural beauty that one can find around Sydney! I am also trying to pick up German, although this has been a long process.

In the future, I hope to engage more with teaching mathematics and mentoring students. Tutoring a first-year linear algebra course and mentoring a group of young female and gender diverse mathematicians have been some of the highlights of my last year.

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

Mathematics for me is all about connections between seemingly disparate objects. I love to solve problems that are very easy to write down, but seem to require vastly more complicated ideas to solve. The area of combinatorics (which is the mathematics of counting), has a wide range of these problems.

How did you get into mathematics and into the area of Representation Theory? Was there someone or something that inspired you to this field?

My Honours project was my first experience with representation theory, and I instantly found it quite magical. The inspiration for its use comes from it’s surprisingly general power to solve many other types of problems.

You received a grant to attend AMSI Winter School 2022. How important was this in terms of your ability to attend, fully participate in the program and meet others studying in similar fields?

Grants are very useful for allowing students to attend these programs, and hopefully this money can go toward those who would not be able to go otherwise.

Winter School is designed to give students a deeper understanding of their area of research and expose them to others working in different fields/industries. What was the most valuable part of the program for you? Was it the course content or the people you met? Do you have new ideas for your work/research or see it in a new light?

Having a wide range of coursework means its usefulness could appear many years down the track when I’m working on a similar problem. The most valuable part of the program was being able to meet so many of the people working in my field, and sharing insight and understanding with each other.

AMSI-MSRI Winter School was held as a hybrid event with event hubs in Australia and America. What was the biggest positive from your point of view holding it in this format and/or the biggest challenge?

It’s important to continue to break down the barriers for all mathematician’s worldwide, and part of that is fostering useful and accepting online communities. The awkwardness of these interactions can sometimes be a hurdle, but once this is overcome people still find ways to engage with each other.

What advice would you give to someone who is considering applying for Winter School in 2023? How would you describe the conference to them? Should they apply and why?

I would suggest applying for the school, even if you are not exactly in the field. The coursework can be challenging, but everybody is there to take in what they can and have some fun while doing it. You don’t need to take the course requirements too seriously, and focus instead on the experience of the school.

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

I hope to be an academic and contribute to the overall mathematics culture in a positive way. In five years I will have only just finished my PhD, and after that I can really begin to explore which areas of mathematics I want to delve further into, and which programs I can be apart of.

Any other feedback/comments you would like to provide on the AMSI Scholarship or AMSI-MSRI Winter School 2022?

The organisers did a really good job with the conference, and all of the students were incredibly collaborative and supportive of each other.