In a world where data is becoming the powerhouse behind everything we do, it’s hardly a surprise that the business world is increasingly searching for actionable insights in those abstract numbers. And according to Gerard Conangla Planes, senior data scientist at Diribia Data Research, applied mathematics offers such solutions by providing reasoning ability and a lot of common sense.
His day-to-day responsibilities vary from what he calls “quite simple data wrangling” to building very sophisticated mathematical models; he uses math to solve problems, builds computer programs and communicates results and advances to his clients. And Gerard stands firm in the fact that his training—which includes an academic background that covers mathematics, telecommunications, engineering and physics—has placed powerful tools at his disposal.
A universal language
For Gerard, the power of mathematics comes from the fact that it can be applied in any field. It’s a universal language for engineering, biology, physics, economics and many other sectors. He doesn’t personally worry if he can’t remember specific mathematical results or formulae from his studies; it’s much easier, he says, to relearn it again later.
His key takeaways from his studies in applied mathematics are grounded very much in practical applications. “What you should really take away with you is the ability to translate concrete, real-world situations into abstract models that can later be attacked with the intuition, analytical thinking and mathematical machinery that you developed during your studies,” he explains.
Gerard Conangla Planes
“Using evidence, when evidence can be found, is always a much better strategy, and mathematicians are perfectly equipped to dig for such evidence.”
A trans-disciplinary program for real problem-solving
The Bachelor in Applied Mathematics is about just that—imparting in-depth understanding of the application of mathematics across a variety of disciplines in pursuit of solutions to real problems. It’s a program that’s as hands-on as it is demanding, designed for people who are looking to leverage their analytical thinking skills to use mathematics for the benefit of business and society.
Gerard has plenty of advice for anybody who’s drawn to applied mathematics but isn’t certain where it can take them. “It’s completely fine if you arrive at your mathematics degree and you don’t know what you’re going to do after: math research, finances, teaching, data science,” he says. “You don’t need to know yet, as long as you enjoy the ‘meantime’—you’ll have plenty of opportunities to find out and try several possibilities.”
Certainly the Bachelor in Applied Mathematics opens all sorts of career doors, from product developers and risk management to meteorology and neuroscience. Building the foundations of calculus, algebra and geometry in the first year, the program moves on to differential equations, statistics and statistics in the second. The third year focuses on the applications of these foundations, including derivative equations, algorithms, mathematical modeling and more. And the fourth year allows for concentrations in industrial mathematics, AI and financial mathematics.
As with all our programs, however, the real world of business is at the core of the curriculum, with entrepreneurship, tech, machine learning and communication all included to prepare students for the careers that lie ahead of them.
Gerard Conangla Planes
“Mathematics is not only about calculating things. Mathematics is mostly about understanding models deeply and using this acquired knowledge to solve problems.”
A discipline for the future
The Bachelor in Applied Mathematics is likely to become ever-more relevant in the increasingly digitalized world in which we live and do business. Data is available about basically everything so companies, organizations, governments and every other conceivable stakeholder will, says Gerard, be in a position to “take actions on scientific evidence instead of gut feelings.”
For anybody thinking about a career in mathematics, he has some guidance to offer. “A degree in mathematics is one of the hardest out there,” he advises, “so you will need to do considerable work to make it to the end. I suggest finding your own method of study, since not everybody learns the same way.”
That said, graduates of the program have a professional profile—and experience gained in projects based on real-world scenarios—that are actively being sought by employers in the business world and beyond. And the global potential for some of the discipline’s career paths are summed up by Gerard’s own vision of what he’d like to do with mathematics in future.
He’d like to apply his skills to electricity generation, seeking versatile and reliable options to complement wind and solar power. Such an example is just one way that applied mathematics could have a hand in changing our future world for the better.