“There is a general perception in our society that the pursuit of mathematics does not lead to attractive career possibilities. This may have been valid some years ago, but today there are many new opportunities available in mathematics…”, stated India’s prime minister, Dr. Manmohan Singh, while declaring 2012 as ‘National Mathematical Year’ in commemoration of Srinivasa
Ramanujan’s 125th birth anniversary. At ParentEdge, this article is our contribution to honour the Maths prodigy by helping today’s youth discover the avenues that our prime minister referred to.
A Love and Life of Numbers
While numerical ability has traditionally been a stronghold of Indians, few pursued careers in Maths. Those who were interested in and good at ‘quants’ (as numerical ability is often nicknamed), typically joined engineering courses. Others, like V.N. Venkatakrishnan, Associate Professor at University of Illinois, Chicago (who pursued an M.Sc. in Maths along with his B.E at BITS, Pilani) were clear that academics was their calling. “When I was growing up, I thought that only a career in academics was intellectually stimulating for someone good at numbers. Now that is no longer true. Take Wall Street for example, there are many Maths Ph.D.s there. Analytics is another opportunity, with all the buzz around ‘big data’. So is Supply Chain Management.”
Adds Aparna Iyengar, Marketing Analyst at a Fortune 10 organisation, “Many organisations are forming Analytics groups to understand what is working for them; how they can improve their business by making sense of their numbers. There are jobs (especially in the derivatives area), in financial institutions supply chain and logistics, risk management (actuaries).” Aparna did her master’s degree in Applicable Mathematics from the London School of Economics after her bachelor’s degree in Maths from Chennai.
In contrast to ‘pure Maths’ which is abstract and theoretical, the study of Applied (or Applicable) Maths involves practicalapplications of mathematical concepts in industry and business. One example of this is Statistics, which involves the collection, analysis, and presentation of data as well as forecasting and predicting future events based on the data. Both Maths- and Statistics-based careers are suitable for students with numerical ability.
There are also interesting statistics-based jobs in public service. The Census Commission, Planning Commission, the National Council of Applied Economic Research (NCAER), Institute of Applie Manpower Research (IAMR), Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) all have statisticians who work with consumer prices, employment patterns and population trends for example, to aid in the development of public policy and legislations. Statisticians also work in private market research organisations, designing, conducting and analysing survey responses.