In AMSI scholarship recipient
AMSI grant recipient profile: Zachary Stevens-Hough

Zachary Stevens-Hough

The University of Queensland

I am an honours student studying physics and pure mathematics at The University of Queensland under the supervision of Assoc. Prof. Jacinda Ginges. My primary interests lie in the theory of high-precision atomic physics and quantum field theories. I intend upon pursuing a masters’ and PhD in mathematical physics, and work in research at the boundary between the two fields of study.


I was born and raised on the Gold Coast, Queensland, and moved to Brisbane to dedicate more time to my work. When I’m not struggling to learn mathematics, I spend my time gardening, cycling, and reading literature.

1. Can you give me a quick rundown about the type of mathematics you are studying and its potential impacts for the broader community (think how you would explain your work and studies to others who don’t study maths)

My work requires applying a broad range of different fields of mathematics. The most notable of which I would say is the representation theory of Lie algebras. Indeed, Lie algebras arise naturally in a (perhaps un-)surprisingly large array of fields in physics, especially within the study of quantum mechanics. Quantum mechanics, and nearly all aspects of modern physics, is essentially a study of symmetry. They provide a rigorous and formal treatment of the symmetries that underpin the world around us.

In my work, I use special properties of Lie algebras to describe, with a very high degree of precision, the way that the electrons and atomic nuclei `couple’ together via electromagnetic interactions. In turn, this allows us to make extremely accurate tests and search for new physics.

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

I have always been interested in mathematics, but it was only once I reached my final two years of high school that I realised that I needed to pursue mathematics and physics further to be fulfilled with both myself, and my career.

3. You received a Travel Grant to attend AMSI Summer School 2024. How important was this in terms of your ability to attend, fully participate in the program and meet others studying in similar fields? Do you think it was an advantage to attend the program in-person?

I am extremely grateful for being awarded a Travel Grant to attend the 2024 Summer School. It was instrumental to my ability to attend, and certainly, I would not have been able to have any of the opportunities (nor meet any of the fantastic people) if I was not awarded it. Attending in person was necessary for my ability to complete the program. There are a lot of hours of lectures per week, and I must admit, I perhaps would not have remained as focused it I was only able to watch them via Zoom.

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

The learning opportunities were extremely valuable to me. The General Relativity course took a very different pedagogical approach to the standard one offered by most universities, so I am very grateful to be given that opportunity.

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

Honestly, it was meeting the other students. Everyone that attended was lovely and passionate about their work. I made many friends and potential collaborators from all around the country, and with how insular academia can be, it is always important to make as many contacts as possible.

6. 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. Do you feel better equipped to explore career options in the mathematical sciences after attending AMSI Summer School?

Yes. There were some interesting speakers that brought a variety of career paths to my attention I perhaps would not have considered otherwise. Although I am set on my current trajectory, it is always good to be aware of other avenues.

7. What advice would you give to someone who is considering applying for Summer School in 2025? Should they apply and why?

Just do it. I had an entirely different idea conceived of what the Summer School was before I went. It was an extremely valuable and worthwhile experience.

8. What are your current career ambitions in the mathematical sciences sector?

I intend upon pursuing a career in academia, specifically, working at the boundary between pure mathematics and physics.

9. How did connecting with the community at AMSI Summer School support your experience?

The community was certainly an, ahem, integral component of the Summer School experience. My experience would not have been as great as it was without the other people there.