Paula Rowinska is a PhD student of Mathematics at Planet Earth Centre for Doctoral Training, at Imperial College, London. Her work focuses on climate change and how to make renewable energy more efficient. In 2017, her blog post ‘Blowing in the Wind’ was selected by Science Seeker as one of the best in the scientific field. Hear, she talks about mathematic stereotypes, how we can each do our (small) bit for the planet and why she never slows down.
How are you preparing for your TEDxWandsworth talk?
I am writing my talk, rewriting it and testing it on my friends and family. It’s really easy to forget that what’s exciting for a mathematician isn’t necessarily the most entertaining thing to talk about at a TEDx event.
How did you come up with the idea for your talk?
Coming up with ideas wasn’t a problem but picking the idea was very difficult…there are way too many cool concepts in maths to fit in 18 minutes.
There are still relatively few women studying mathematics, especially at your level – why do you think that is?
It’s a question I sometimes ask myself. It might be because the stereotypical mathematician is an old, bearded man, probably struggling with serious mental problems – which obviously isn’t the case.
How can we have a positive impact on ecology and sustainability at an individual level?
I’m afraid that having a positive impact isn’t really feasible; not having an excessively negative impact would be great. We should do whatever is acceptable for us, for example, cycle instead of driving, reduce meat consumption, stop buying bottled water… And, most importantly, spread awareness.
Who or what inspires you?
I don’t have to look far: fellow PhD students in maths department of Imperial College. What a group of smart, creative and hardworking people! I’m inspired by their successes as much as the way they deal with their struggles.
Would you describe yourself as an extrovert, or an introvert?
It’s easy to distinguish an extrovert mathematician from an introvert one: the extrovert one stares at someone else’s shoes. I sometimes even dare to look in people’s eyes, so I’m definitely extrovert…
How do you spend your down time?
Whenever I have a free minute, I always manage to find a new task for myself (such as preparing a TEDx talk), so that I don’t have down time again in the foreseeable future.
What one thing would you like to know before you die?
There’s one thing I know a lot about, but I still don’t fully understand it – the concept of infinity. I’d like to be able to say: “Yes, that’s exactly how it works and why it works this way”.
What is your favourite TED or TEDx talk?
‘More adventures in replying to spam’ and other talks by James Veitch always make me laugh. And think.
Saying “yes” more often than “no”, so that we never regret not doing something.
Interview by Rosy Edwards