What is it like to work in STEM? That’s science, technology, engineering and maths. I have shared insights into the careers of those in science, technology and engineering throughout my Scientist in the Spotlight series, but I haven’t really celebrated the maths side of STEM. Until now!
I have never been very good at maths. I mean I can add up, subtract and all that – even if it is VERY slowly – and anything I might need to help me in the lab. C1 x V1 = C2 x V2 is pretty much my saviour! hah! I think my issue was that I just couldn’t understand it and so then I just didn’t want to do it. So, the thought of a career in maths terrifies me. But that is not the case for this month’s Scientist in the Spotlight, Ivana. Ivana was born and raised in New York City and set up Mathematical Models to provide young women with positive (mathematical) role models and much more. She works hard and always ways up the pros and cons before making any decision, but is always down for a good time! She loves clothes, make up, a good workout and most importantly maths! Ivana isn’t in research or studying for her PhD at the moment, but instead works at a national non-profit education organisation writing educational mathematics content! Something I think I should take a look at! She does all this while sharing the beauty of mathematics in the real world through her social media which has opened my eyes to how cool maths can be! So, let me introduce you to my next Scientist in the Spotlight, Ivana.
Were you always going to choose to study maths?
Ivana: I wasn’t always good at math. In fact, when I was younger, I struggled with it so much that I hated it! When I failed math one year, I was really discouraged and never wanted to take a math class again. It wasn’t until I took Calculus that I began to see the true beauty of math and how fun it can be! I attribute my passion for math to my calculus teacher who really supported me and gave me confidence in my mathematics abilities. I chose to study math in college because I grew passionate about it and wanted to learn about different theories and studies of mathematics. I then chose to go for my Masters in Education because I wanted to inspire young students the way my calculus teacher inspired me.
What would you say to someone who finds maths really challenging and struggles with it?
Ivana: I know math can be difficult for many, and that’s totally normal! One piece of advice I would give is to not compare yourself to others. Everyone is capable of learning at their own pace, and just because you may not understand things right away doesn’t mean you never will. Some things take hard work, perseverance, and a willingness to overcome your struggles. If I had never pushed myself or eventually gained confidence in my abilities, I would never have learned to appreciate how amazing math is! I often think about what I would have done if I just gave up on math after having failed the class. What would I have studied in college? What would my career be? What would I be interested in always wanting to learn more about? And what passion would I want to share with the world? My eventual love for math has shaped a lot of who I am today, and I’m so glad I never gave up on it.
What advice would you give someone who wanted to study maths?
Ivana: I definitely have to say this: studying math is NOT easy. If it feels difficult, just know that is a totally normal feeling! I often thought to myself, “If I’m a math major, then why is this so hard for me? Maybe I’m not cut out for this.” But I decided to continue because I knew I wouldn’t have been putting myself through the struggle if I had not been truly passionate about it. Stick through it because you LOVE it. And never be afraid to ask for help. Having study buddies and visiting your professor during office hours will SAVE YOU. That’s how I got through it.
Why should we all get excited about maths?
Ivana: Math is so beautiful! Everywhere you look, you can get a glimpse of math. I live in New York City and I’m constantly encountering mathematics on a daily basis — you see it in architecture, in art, in patterns. You can think about the probability of something happening, or calculate the different permutations or combinations of things. You can estimate the number of people in a restaurant, theater, or subway car, and think about how to model that over time. It’s so untrue that math is not relevant in the real world! Mathematical ideas were developed in order to describe the world around us!
Why did you start your Mathematical Models feature?
Ivana: I started Mathematical Models as an Instagram account to show people how math can be seen everywhere in our world! Whenever people hear about what I studied or what I do, they always comment about how they hate math, how it’s so difficult, and how it’s too abstract to understand. I wanted to show, through pictures of things in everyday life, that this is not the case if you look close enough! I then started the blog, where I feature female “Mathematical Models”, who explain how they use math in their STEM research or work. Again, the goal of this is to show how useful and important math is, especially in innovative fields that impact our world.
Who are your maths role models?
Ivana: I’ve stumbled across so many amazing women in STEM through Instagram, and I’ve been lucky enough to interview a few of them. These women are amazing math role models. Reading their submissions has really inspired me and taught me a lot about how math is used in various STEM fields like astrophysics, oceanography, computer science, biomedical engineering, physics, civil engineering,…the list goes on! I’m so glad I get to spread their knowledge with others, and I’m just as happy to learn from these amazing women.
Outside of work, what do you like to get up to?
Ivana: For the past few months, I have been working hard as CoFounder of a kid’s fashion startup, Hello Bezlo (www.hellobezlo.com). Our mission is to inspire young girls to pursue their interests in STEM at a young age. There aren’t many clothing options for girls to express their love of outer space, coding, math, and science — these designs seem limited to boys. We aim to break that barrier. We hope to help close the gender gap in STEM at a young age, with hopes that they will continue to be interested in these subjects when they enter the workforce as adults.
Outside of this, I love spending time with my friends and boyfriend, pampering myself to mani-pedis, shopping, working out – going to spin or barre class, trying new restaurants, and spending time with my family – I have the cutest niece!
Where do you see yourself in 10 years time?
Ivana: Tough question! I love what I’m currently doing, and I’m glad the work I’m doing at my current job has a huge impact on millions of students. I definitely want to stay in the Math Education field, working to help students get a better understanding of math as they move through school. Maybe I’ll get my PhD? And maybe Hello Bezlo will be a huge brand by then?! We’ll see!
And finally, where in the world should I visit next?
Ivana: Last year, I had the chance to visit Bali, Indonesia and I have to say it was probably one of the best trips I’d ever taken. It’s got a mix of just about anything you’d want out of a vacation: beautiful beaches, relaxing resorts and spas, a fun party scene, amazing restaurants, temples, and breathtaking scenery. My favorite place in Bali was definitely Ubud — it’s unlike any other place I’ve been to. The city and the people in it just emanate serene and peaceful vibes. You don’t feel a care in the world when you’re there. The rice terraces and the Monkey Temple are definitely must-sees … just be careful of the monkeys, as they may try to rob you – like they did to my friend – or jump on your face – like they did to me!
Huge thank you to Ivana for taking the time to answer my questions about what working in maths is really like. I think it is about time that we all embraced maths more! I will definitely be on the hunt for it whilst walking down the streets now too. If you want to ask Ivana any questions about her career in maths or check out her Mathematical Models that she features you can check her out on Twitter and Instagram.
Apologies for being a little quiet on the blog front recently, but I’m going through that final push to be able to get out of the lab and write my thesis. If anyone has sent me emails and DMs too – I haven’t forgotten about you but I am just short of time to reply properly at the moment. I’m slowly catching up with my blog admin so hopefully more posts coming your way very soon.
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