My Journey Into Mathematics

By Daniel Sykes, University of New England

Personally, my journey into mathematics has been, like most things in any single person’s existence, chaotic, at times harmful, however, rewarding with those rare silver linings. This 2018-19 AMSI VRS experience is one of those rare moments.

As a child, I showed natural aptitude towards both academics and sports activities alike. Furthermore, as a young child in country New South Wales, motivation with respect to the latter and a blanket of encouragement was never hard to come by. Consequently, I neglected throughout my childhood, at least relative to the effort I applied in sport, academic and intellectual pursuits in favour of those physically-oriented activities. It was not until the end of high school that my orientation was to change so rapidly. My commitment and severe time dedication towards honing my physical-self cultivated an identity crisis, when a particular opportunity to enter the mathematics realm, almost spontaneously, grew out of chance and kindness.

Consequently, I delved into mathematics and thoroughly enjoy the beauty, elegance and stimulus that it provides. However, the problem of extrinsic motivation towards these pursuits remains an inadvertent issue.  In the country, outside of metropolitan influence, the academic community is small, and the mathematics community makes up only a small subclass. However, one vast positive about this, is the extent to which an individual can develop a personal relationship with professional working mathematicians. As such, based on conversations with metropolitan students at AMSIConnect, the degree of support received in the country, in particular at my home University’s (UNE) Maths department, vastly outweighs what seems possible for those students.

However, motivation via competition, peer engagement and other social aspects, dwindles due to the small cohort of students available to converse with. This is where a programs like AMSI VRS with the AMSIConnect conference become invaluable. The opportunity to meet students who have a strong interest in mathematics was vastly motivating. I wholeheartedly encourage future students to take up such opportunities without any timidity. Thus far, the AMSI VRS reigns as the benchmark in my mathematics career.

My utmost thanks to AMSI for this priceless experience and my most sincere gratitude for my supervisor Professor Gerd Schmalz.


Daniel Sykes was a recipient of a 2018/19 AMSI Vacation Research Scholarship.

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