ANU maths grad makes history

6 December 2017

When Yunfei Ouyang graduates this December, he will be the first ever graduate of the Bachelor of Mathematical Science.

As well as making history, Yunfei has also been secretly studying it.

“I really enjoyed studying history all through high school, but I couldn’t squeeze in any history electives in my maths degree,” he says. “But I will admit that I secretly sat in on many, many history and classics lectures during my time at ANU!”

Launched in 2016, the Bachelor of Mathematical Science is an elite, research-focused program where students master quantitative problem-solving, mathematical modelling and critical thinking.

As the first graduate of the degree, Yunfei has taken a leading role in the mentoring of younger maths students.

“In my first year I learnt a lot about independent university study skills while completing Advanced Mathematics and Applications 1 and 2. These courses required a vastly different study style to high school subjects and it was also the first time I thought about how I could help a large number of students study effectively.”

“So, in my second year, I took on a tutoring role through the Peer Assisted Learning (PAL) program.

“I tutored the same two courses I studied in the year before, and I found it very rewarding to help first year students who were struggling with what I had been struggling with too.

“Later on in my third year, I took on a leadership role in the PAL program, where I led a small team of PAL mentors. We planned and delivered eight tutorials per week to about 200 maths students.”

Yunfei has relished the opportunity to bring mathematics into the 21st century, undertaking internships with industry throughout his degree.

“In my second year I completed an internship with the Department of Infrastructure as a data analyst. I analysed a lot of shipping data—specifically to do with the container shipping industry—and helped make infrastructure recommendations.

“I’m currently exploring the possibility of a career in finance by taking part in a 10-week summer banking internship with Westpac in Melbourne.

“Maths can be applied to so many pressing problems and it opens up many doors. Applying my quantitative skillset to unravel real world problems has been very satisfying.”

Once his internship in Melbourne is complete, Yunfei would like to undertake an honours project at ANU, inspired by an interest in personalised learning.

“What I discovered in my degree was that the style of learning, especially in the later-year maths courses, is much more personal compared to some of the bigger first and second-year courses,” he says.

“I felt like I was able to go to the lecturer fairly casually and ask a lot of questions. In my financial maths course there were 25 students – a high school-size class!

“Lecturers try very hard to cater to the needs of all students and foster their interests, but ultimately everyone is at different stages of the learning process.

“Some students might be a bit further behind, some students have different backgrounds and vastly different ways of thinking about the problem. I want to motivate other students and reduce the burden on lecturers by creating a personalised learning software. It will leverage on machine learning capabilities and improve with greater usage.”

Just like the mathematics greats before him, this history-making grad is set on redefining the next thousand years of mathematics.

“The ultimate goal for the software is to explain concepts as if the student were to explain it to him or herself. That’s the big, grand goal!”

Make your mark with the Bachelor of Mathematical Sciences at ANU.