Laura Cartwright encourages young women to pursue a future in male-dominated fields

For Laura Cartwright, mathematics is about more than numbers.

The University of Wollongong student said maths in its many forms underpins almost every aspect of our daily lives, and unravelling the intricacies of its role in society is what she loves about her field of study.

“Maths provides the basis of just about every physical phenomena we know of, and it’s such a surreal feeling to be able to understand how these phenomena work,” she said.

Laura today (Wednesday 13 December) graduated with a Bachelor of Advanced Mathematics (Honours) and delivered the student remarks during the ceremony, encouraging the crowd of students to embrace the end of university as the next chapter in their lives.

She had originally planned to study Medical Health Sciences at UOW, but after one semester, Laura realised her passion lay in mathematics, and she changed her degree. She completed a Bachelor of Medical Mathematics, before moving into straight Advanced Mathematics for her Honours.

“I love the challenge of trying to find the best solution possible to a problem,” said Laura, who is President of UOW’s student Mathematics Society. “There is a sense of elegance within maths, in that you may suddenly discover a result or pattern, which links two very different, seemingly unrelated branches back together. Seeing how everything is intertwined is very exciting.”

Laura’s passion for maths is infectious. Indeed, she believes one of the ways to encourage students to explore careers in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics) fields is to engage with them on the benefits of studying these subjects and to show them what can be achieved.

“I work as an ambassador within the STEM Outreach team at UOW,” Laura said. “After graduation, I plan to use my degree to encourage high school students to choose to study STEM-related degrees at university. I think it’s important for the students to see people who have these degrees.

“I think part of the push away from STEM that society is seeing, particularly for young females, is due to a lack of passionate and enthusiastic people interacting regularly with these students.”

Laura’s experience as a female in a male-dominated field has been overwhelmingly positive and she wants to encourage more young women to pursue degrees in STEM subjects.

“It is certainly true that there is a higher number of males than females in mathematics, but there is no sense of segregation,” Laura said. “These days, I think it is an advantage to be a female in any STEM-related field, as there are so many opportunities and scholarships available to us.”

Laura’s graduation does not signal the end of her studies at UOW. She has been accepted into a PhD in spatio-temporal statistics with Dr Andrew Zammit Mangion at the National Institute for Applied Statistics Research Australia, beginning early next year.

“I’m really excited about beginning my PhD,” she said. “Working in maths is a constant journey of discovery. You never know what you are going to find next.”

Words by India Glyde. Originally published on UOW newsroom