Math Awareness Month 2015

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Mathematics Awareness Month – April 2015
Math Drives Careers

The theme of Mathematics Awareness Month 2015 is Math Drives Careers. The program’s goal for the coming year is to increase awareness of the breadth of careers available to those who study the mathematical sciences.

Nearly everyone is familiar with mathematics teachers and university professors in the mathematical and statistical sciences. This, however, may be the limit of one’s knowledge about what someone who studies mathematics or statistics can do as a career.

Careers in mathematics have received more notice in the press in recent years, and the job title “mathematician” has made the top of several lists of best professions.1. Nevertheless, information about what one can do with a background in mathematics is not widely known, despite the fact that in today’s economy much depends on mathematics, statistics, and computing.  Indeed, whole companies have been founded on mathematical concepts, such as Google with its search engine.

Where do people trained in math/stat work?
Every student, no matter what the level of their academic background, eventually asks the question, what can I do with my degree? A common answer for students with degrees in the mathematical sciences is “teach mathematics” at some level. For students with a degree at the doctoral level the common answer is “find a position at a university and continue to conduct mathematical research.” Both of these options can certainly lead to satisfying careers. However, there are many other career choices ---ones that utilize training in the mathematical and statistical sciences--- that have an impact on solutions to real world problems. 

People trained in the mathematical sciences work across the spectrum of businesses and industries. What makes many of the jobs they fill less obvious is that often they do not have “mathematics” or ”mathematician” or “statistician” in the title, even though training in the mathematical sciences is essential for the position. 

There are career opportunities for students trained in the mathematical and statistical sciences in virtually every business sector.

  • Mathematical modeling and the design of associated software are indispensible in manufacturing for the design and optimization of increasingly sophisticated products and processes.
  • In financial and insurance companies, quantitative modeling has become essential in designing financial products, estimating model risk and developing processes for executing transactions.
  • In biotechnology companies, the analysis of gene networks, rather than single genes alone, has been a key to progress in attacking common diseases such as diabetes. This necessitates a quantitative approach including data mining, modeling, and simulation.
  • In the oil and gas extraction business, the ability to exploit new and unconventional sources through the use of enhanced discovery and production techniques has led to greater production.
  •  Corporations across the economic spectrum are adopting business intelligence (i.e., data) and analytics (i.e., quantitative methods) in such areas as marketing, human resources, finance, supply chain management, facility location, risk management, and product and process design. 
  • There is a need for development of algorithms and software to handle large amounts of structured and unstructured data at low cost and derive relevant conclusions for effective business decisions.
  • In the pharmaceutical industry, statisticians design and analyze clinical trials. In manufacturing, they analyze risk and quality control. As data science grows across industries, statisticians will become indispensible.
  • Traditional engineering areas such as aerospace and automotive design have relied heavily on mathematics and often employ people trained in the mathematical and computational sciences as part of their technical teams.

Today, the mathematical sciences continue to provide a pathway to many career areas. We see increasing demand for people trained in data science – an interdisciplinary field that involves mathematics, statistics, and computer science.  And as much more of our world has become quantified and digitized, mathematics has found its way into many new areas. Even motion picture production, with the increase in animation and digital special effects, now relies on mathematics and those trained in the field.

Mathematics Awareness Month 2015 provides profiles of people with degrees in the mathematical sciences who have found successful and rewarding careers outside of academia.  These are just a small sample of the diverse and interesting careers driven by a background in the mathematical sciences.