Student Q & A: Elisabeth Kava and Barton Lee

Science/Arts student Kataya Barrett asked Mathematics students Elisabeth Kava and Barton Lee about their studies, uni life and animals.

Elisabeth Kava Elizabeth Kava

What are you studying at UNSW?

I have been studying a bachelor of Advanced Science with a major in Mathematical Physics and am now completing Honours in Pure Mathematics.

Where did you grow up?

I grew up in various parts of Indonesia, but mostly in Jakarta. I moved to Australia when I was eight, then finished all my growing in Sydney.

What’s the coolest thing about studying Mathematics?

Besides doing the actual maths itself, I have met a whole lot of pretty swell folk from all around the country. I spent a summer at the Australian National University, a few days with the Queensland Brain Institute at the University of Queensland, and in January I was at the Australian Mathematical Sciences Institute summer school in Melbourne. So keep a look out for short courses, research scholarships, and summer/winter schools since doing maths is definitely more fun with friends! And did I mention they’re usually free?

Why would you recommend doing Honours?

Well, for starters it’s really different to all the education you’ve ever had before. You get to do whatever you want and it’s also a different kind of learning. Not only since it’s mostly independent, but also because you have regular one-on-one meetings with someone who knows the field ridiculously well. The coursework has a different flavour; small classes means you can run into your lecturer’s office whenever you get stuck on an assignment question (not actually all the time) and everyone works together. It’s secretly one of the most fun things I’ve ever done. Oh and you get to see what research in maths looks like! You get to see so much more than you ever even knew existed.

What are you planning to when you finish your degree?

I’ve just finished my last semester here and can’t seem to get enough of maths, so I’m heading over to start a PhD at the University of Chicago in a couple of months. I guess the idea is to stay in school forever. It would be nice to come back here though, either in academia or in the tall buildings. The nice thing about maths is that you can do lots of different things with your degree, even things that give you money.

How do you spend your free time?

Free time? I have kind of almost forgotten what free time is. Well, when I get some, I like to read or game. I do a little dancing (ballroom), and the gym is nice too. I guess since I’m a maths student I should also explicitly state that I see people for social purposes, etc. in my free time!

If you could live anywhere in the world, where would it be?

I’d like to live in a place with potable tap water and medium density housing with lots of green spaces. So out of all the places I’ve been to, I’d probably say right about here is quite nice.

Do you have a pet? tell us about him/her.

No, I don’t, but if I was the supreme ruler of the universe I would have a forest with a pack of wolves and I’d get fit running around with them all the time. I probably wouldn’t want to watch them hunt though.

Barton Lee Barton Lee

What are you studying at UNSW?

I’m in my third year of studying a Bachelor of Commerce and Advanced Science degree with majors in Financial Economics and Pure Mathematics.

Tell us about MathSoc?

MathSoc is a society for students interested in Mathematics, regardless of their degree. It was created in 2011 to promote a sense of community for those mathematically minded, and give students exposure to the careers that mathematics can provide. The society now has over 2,500 members and I was fortunate enough to be elected President for 2013.

MathSoc holds many events for their members that include academic talks, trivia nights, sports days, career events with industry representatives, BBQs and integration bees!

This semester we plan on having a strong focus on academic events. In particular we are planning: a Question and Answer forum with some lecturers; another integration bee; a majors talk; and supporting the school of Mathematics and Statistics at a few of their events.

In addition, we will be holding an AGM in November – so if you are interested in being involved as an executive for 2014 please come along and apply for a position!

What advice can you give new students?

Just get involved with the uni lifestyle, and don’t be afraid. From my experience the students who really enjoy their time at UNSW are those who get involved with societies, engross themselves in their studies, and take part in the events, such as those held by the Roundhouse.

Where is your favourite place to hang out at UNSW and why?

My favourite place and daily hangout is the Whitehouse. I love the relaxed atmosphere, fun staff, great coffee and sunny outdoor seating.

It’s a great place to meet up with mates and take a much needed study break, or to have a fruit punch and few beers before heading to an infamous roundhouse party.

What is the best social activity you have attended at UNSW?

Besides all the MathSoc events, I’d say the best social activity I’ve attended would be Oktoberfest at the Roundhouse. It is probably the biggest party run by ARC at the Roundhouse. Everyone dresses up in lederhosen’s and are sprawled across the campus from about 1pm until doors open at the roundhouse.

It really brings together students from all different degree backgrounds and is just a ridiculously fun event.

What is your favourite animal and why?

My favourite animal would have to be the dolphin. They are awesome to look at and to be around. It’s always a special moment when I’m out surfing and there are dolphins diving around the waves too.

Besides this, there is also a great deal of evidence saying that dolphins are mathematical geniuses! Many scientists are claiming that they are forced to solve complex, non-linear problems when hunting for their prey.

…That’s just a few reasons why dolphins are my favourite animals.

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