Mathematics has not always been my passion; in fact, quite to the opposite. I used to hate Maths during my first few years encountering it in primary school, I just didn’t get all those weird formulae. Why is the area of a triangle half base times height? What is a base and what is a height anyway? None of my teachers cared to explain them to me, and my brain refused to blindly follow these rules, so although I heard that Maths is so important and somewhat beautiful throughout my childhood, I didn’t believe the hype and I tried to avoid Maths as much as I could. That was until my grade 8 when I stumbled into a book about Albert Einstein, and surprisingly enough, I found out that he developed his general relativity from a lot of mathematical theories. I felt fascinated by the way Maths could be used to say so much about what is going on around us, and since then it has been growing on me. I know from the beginning that I am more attracted to pure Mathematics than applied, as I want to see why the triangle area formula is the way it is, I love the beauty in the harmony of numbers and forms, I adore the way a formula can be rigorous and flexible at the same time. My passion multiplies during high school and especially during my undergraduate years at La Trobe University, where I was introduced to many modern theoretical areas of Mathematics. I become familiar with all the big names: Gauss, Euler, Lagrange, Jacobi, Cauchy, etc. The more I read about those mathematicians and understand what they did, the more certain I am that I am doing what I love and going where I want to.
The VRS scholarship is a wonderful opportunity for me to know more about how researchers work. I find out that there is a big distance from knowing what I want to do and getting to do it. Luckily, my supervisor, Dr. Yuri Nikolayevsky, welcomed me with open hands, he took careful care and time to explain to me about the motivation of our topic. He also encouraged me to read more about the literature around it, as well as to have a firm understanding of all the relevant backgrounds. As our project is a pure topic in Differential Geometry, it involves a lot of hours familiarising myself with new definitions and concepts, studying theorems and comprehending the methods behind them. I am advised by my supervisor to start writing early, to formalise my methods and correct my calculations as soon as possible. I am also introduced to how to write a formal paper, to choose my words and phrases wisely and professionally to not create confusion for the readers. Gradually I am getting more and more used to the work ethics and etiquette of research, and gaining a sense of professionalism in an academic environment. That is an invaluable skill that I appreciate a lot, and thankfully, I am now coming out a lot more confident to continue with Mathematics than when I first started the VRS journey.
An Ky Duy Nguyen
La Trobe University