Math is a Wonderful Thing

Michael Ucci, University of Adelaide

I don’t think anyone has said it better than Jack Black, when he played Dewey Finn, trying to play Ned Schneebly, in the in the one and only ‘School of Rock’.  In the classrooms of Horace Green Prep School, under the expecting eyes of the Principal Mullins, he uncovers a pearl of wisdom:

“Math is a wonderful thing,

Math is a really cool thing.

Hearing this as a 7-year-old, it seemed to be no more than a guy pretending to be a guy, pretending to be a guy, floundering under the pressure of being a fake substitute teacher. However, growing up in a world that’s increasingly full of numbers, these words resonate with me now more than ever.

Coming out of school, not having much of an idea of what I wanted my future to entail, I crossed my fingers hoping a physics degree was the one for me. A few years later, I find myself, still with little idea of what the future holds, but with a passion for numbers, data and problem solving. I am continually astounded by the power of mathematics to break down, understand and solve a problem, whilst coming up with new and interesting questions along the way.

Throughout my project with AMSI, I got to see this process in action, trying to identify genetic biomarkers for the life threatening condition, Sepsis. I got the chance to understand how tools from areas like genetics, statistics and machine learning are able to come together to tell a story directed purely by a data set.  The most motivating part of the process, is that these and many other tools can be used to solve real, important problems that affect so many aspects of life on a daily basis.

Moving forward in a world where data, numbers and problem solving are ever important, it seems a good idea to take the advice from Mr. Schneebly, to:

Get off your ath,

Lets do some math,

Math math math math math”.

Michael Ucci was one of the recipients of a 2017/18 AMSI Vacation Research Scholarship.

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