What Does A Mathematician Do?

If you think mathematicians only teach college students advanced mathematical concepts and principles, you’re very much mistaken. Math isn’t exactly a popular subject in school and those who are interested in it are often labeled as geeks who don’t have a social life. Whether this stereotype still remains true today or not, what’s certain is that mathematicians receive six-figure salaries on the average and aspiring mathematicians can look forward to a very positive job outlook in the next few years. They also perform really cool tasks. Those who have a pure love for mathematics will be interested to know that mathematicians are often tasked with doing work that does not only challenge their minds but allow them to solve a plethora of problems affecting various industries.

Using advanced mathematical concepts, computational strategies and computer technology, mathematicians seek to analyze data and find solutions for engineering, scientific and business problems. The knowledge they possess are also applied to solving real-world issues affecting the healthcare, computer and space industries, among others.

There are two types of mathematicians—theoretical mathematicians and applied mathematicians. While they do have their own distinct tasks, the work they do often overlaps with each other. Theoretical or pure mathematicians focus on expanding mathematical theories and principles through research. They also delve into the questions that math still has not given an answer to and attempt to resolve them. Through the work they do, they advance mathematics as a field even if they realize that some of their findings may have no practical use. The abstract knowledge that pure mathematicians have developed in their research over the years has often played an integral role in advancing scientific and engineering discoveries. Most theoretical mathematicians are employed in a school setting, teaching in universities and colleges during the school year and conducting research in the summer.

Applied mathematicians, on the other hand, are more concerned with using the mathematical theories, knowledge and techniques to solve the different difficulties encountered by companies, organizations and businesses. For example, they can use methods learned in calculus to determine where oil or natural gas deposits can best be found. They do research on how the financial markets manage risk and price different equities. They even use mathematical principles to determine how the cell gets regenerated after radiation therapy and perform analysis of the efficacy of new medicines. Mathematicians are especially integral in monitoring the data processing systems aboard space shuttles each time they go on a mission to outer space. They also employ mathematical modeling in the development of airplanes and other aerospace vehicles.

From robotics to computer software development to weapons technology to vehicle design and manufacturing, applied mathematicians collaborate with other professionals to come up with new processes or determine what went wrong in previous applications and find solutions for it. Another important task of mathematicians in industry is to analyze data in order to back up or make better business decisions. They may also be tasked with evaluating a project and giving cost estimates for it.

Although mathematics is one of the oldest sciences, it continues to evolve as new knowledge is added to it every day. In order to keep up with the latest trends, theoretical and applied mathematicians subscribe to and read professional publications and join in conferences. They also talk with their colleagues to keep themselves current on new mathematical information, especially at it pertains to the industry they are working in.

It’s important to understand that people with a degree in mathematics are not really called mathematicians in the field where they are working in. They are typically known by the profession where they are working in. Mathematicians may work as financial analysts, systems analysts, statisticians, economists, computer research scientists or actuaries, among others. The more popular mathematicians are those students meet in colleges and universities handling calculus, geometry and other advanced math subjects.

There are less popular but more amazing ones, such as those mathematicians who are adept at cracking encryption systems. They are called cryptanalysts and focus on analyzing codes that usually contain military, political or financial information so that they can decode encrypted messages. They are often found working in law enforcement agencies.

Career Spotlight: Mathematician

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