Many of us have probably struggled to study maths wondering, “When would I ever use these concepts outside of school?” Free Sobolewski, a second year QUT student studying a Bachelor of Mathematics, believes that shouldn’t deter you from studying maths at uni. Free, who is majoring in statistics, is enjoying her current coursework immensely: “We always apply the theory to real-world applications. It’s lots of fun!”
Free has always loved maths, but was less enthused by her high school maths classes. The maths department was lacking in resources, which meant that Free self-studied two maths subjects in her senior years – luckily she’s a great self-directed learner.
Why study maths?
Free chose to study maths at uni because of the diversity of career options available for maths graduates. She hasn’t yet chosen a career path but is considering data science, computational maths or even geophysics.
Over the summer, Free took part in a three month internship at Origin Energy, where she experienced first-hand how data science is used in the oil and gas industry. Free’s task was to model the failure of gas wells – a huge productivity and safety concern, as the failure can otherwise go unnoticed for months. Free says the project, which had a large computational component, was a great learning experience.
“In uni, the data set will always work”, she explains. “But in the real world, that isn’t the case. You have to think on your feet and be versatile in your skill set.” Free also gained some great professional skills. She didn’t have much experience giving presentations before her internship, so she jokingly describes it as “trial by fire!”
On track with CareerTrackers
Free, who is a Wiradjuri woman, applied for the internship through CareerTrackers, a non-profit organisation which facilitates internship opportunities for Indigenous university students and helps provide students with core employability skills. At first, Free was hesitant about applying, but now she highly recommends the program to other Indigenous students.
Free was initially worried about enrolling in a STEM degree at uni, but she advises students to be brave and take the plunge. “There’s nothing you can’t learn: they’re not throwing ridiculous things at you! You’ll be fine as long as you have the dedication to your studies.”
“In uni, the data set will always work but in the real world, that isn’t the case. You have to think on your feet and be versatile in your skill set.”
Author: Eliza Brockwell
Eliza is the Digital Producer for Careers with STEM. Eliza is passionate about creating content that encourages diversity of representation in STEM.