MyCareer lead article on jobs in mathematics

Date: 

Monday, 25th February 2008

'Magic in maths' was the title of the lead article in the SMH MyCareer section on Sat 23 Feb 2008.

"Big salaries and exciting jobs are available for those with a head for mathematics", wrote journalist Rebecca Martin.

Radio announcer Adam Spencer, a former mathematician, says, "They say that maths is music to which the symphonies of the universe are written". So maths is everywhere. "Others are crunching figures for the environment or real estate investment companies .... Some maths professionals are collecting salaries of more than $200,000."

Extracts from the article:

"James Franklin, a professor of maths and statistics at the University of NSW, says our data-rich world has created more need for mathematicians. 'There is so much data now', he says, 'The more powerful the computer, the more data that spills out. So you need people who can tell computers what patterns to look for, like, for example, to predict fraud.' With environment a hot issue, Franklin says mathematicians are increasingly working in fields related to the climate. 'Maths looks at the data and tells you how reliable the models are and how much data you need to get sense out of the model,' he says.
However, most mathematicians work in finance, typically in superannuation, insurance, risk and marketing. 'There is a lot of money for climate change, but the banks have plenty of money, too, and they best appreciate what maths can do for them', Franklin says.

"[UNSW maths PhD] David Maher scored a job with one of the big four banks before he had finished his doctorate in pure mathematics. 'As a postgraduate, the jobs are incredible, so I wouldn't be worried about your career if you are taking that option', The stereotype of the nerdy maths student no longer applies, he says. 'If you are very nerdy and can't communicate ideas, you won't be able to work in finance. You see the need for communication skills on a lot of job ads.

"Leisa Dyer, an honours graduate in applied mathematics [from UNSW], used her training to get a job at the heart of nuclear power in Sydney, working for the Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation at its plant at Lucas Heights. 'I wasn't interested in working in finance, I just wanted to work with the environment and help people.' Dyer does both. Her job involves environmental monitoring at Lucas Heights, crunching data on radiation and atmospheric dispersion. Her public service comes through her work evaluating new safety models the nuclear plant can use.

"James Luffman [UNSW maths grad], says he is not a natural at maths but used the science to land a job as a meteorologist. The 24-year-old works for The Weather Company, where he computes weather forecasts for media outlets around he nation... Luffman says his maths skills have become valuable, particularly as he could easily transfer them to other jobs in climate change or even in finance. 'The class of equations that financial models use are relatively similar to the ones used by meterologists,' he says.

"Spencer says ... 'Maths can be intimidating. People notice it.'

The full article