Mathematics: Student Testimonials

Jenkin Tsui

Specialist: Mathematics - Statistics Stream

What factors contributed to you choosing your program(s)?

My first year Mathematics professor who taught all three of my required A-Level math courses.

Can you describe your program(s)? What is it actually like?

Mathematics and Statistics are rigorous quantitative programs that contain both applied-based and proof-based courses. Mathematics leans more on the abstract side while Statistics are both abstract and applied. Courses are usually definitions-theorems-examples based.

What tips/advice can you provide to students just starting or considering this program(s)?

Don't be afraid to visit professors' office hours, getting to know your professors would be helpful in the future when you need academic references. Be prepared to hit a lot of challenges and obstacles but as long as you work hard and study strategically, you will be able to conquer all these rides and become much better at Mathematics and Statistics.

What will you do with your degree after graduation? (Future plans?)
 
Graduate school and eventually doing research in Bayesian Statistics
 
What has your academic journey during your time been like as you progress toward graduation?
 
In first year, it was a rough ride. I was first admitted into Computer Science Coop because I really liked web programming and servers. But the fact that I didn't do well in first year CS courses and the fact that my first year Math professor motivated me so much about the beauty of Mathematics, I decided to switch into the Math program at the end of first year. In second year, I worked very hard to compensate for the poor grades I received in first year. My second year Fall semester GPA jumped to 3.93 from a 2.90 in first year Winter semester. Throughout second year, I began to understand what Calculus is all about and what the major areas of Mathematics are. At the end of my second year, I wanted to do something related to Statistics as well because it will enable me to find jobs easier since there are more applications and usage with Statistics. In third year, while I continued taking some Mathematics courses, I put the focus more on Statistics. It was another tough ride because a course I took was taught by a graduate professor in downtown and his speedy talking and messy writing just added more difficulty to the already-abstract course materials. But I decided to use recorders and when I got home, I would spend hours and hours just listening to every word he said during the lectures and I learned so much more. I ended up doing very well in the course. In the subsequent semester (Winter semester of third year), I got used to his speed and I had no problem with his lecture style. Having taken these two courses, I felt that I became much more knowledgeable on Statistics and I was glad to learn so much about theoretical statistics. Currently, I am in my fourth year, it is the most important year.  I will be doing a fifth year due to delays caused by extra-curricular, Teaching Assistantship, and Coop work terms. Also, I am facing challenges with time management due to having courses at both UTSC and UTSG campuses. Moreover, all the courses I am taking are taught by new professors and I am excited to see how everything will turn out by the end of the semester.

 

Majors: Computer Science and Mathematics

 What factors contributed to you choosing your program(s)?
 

I would like to mention that although it states in the calendar that you cannot choose programs from the same department like I did, there is a twist to that. You need to speak with the program supervisor if you want this option. That's another thing-don't just limit your course and program selection to the calendar. It is only meant as a guide. Talk to your program supervisor, your instructor and/or TA, university staff and students in the AACC, Registrar, student organizations and clubs like AMACSS, BioSA and your peers because there's so many ways you can complete your graduation than what's written in the calendar. There's also Degree Explorer and other tools that you can use. Now, the reason I chose these two majors as my programs of study or my Subject POSts is because I used to be very good at Math in High School. Compared to my other grades, math was always at the top. It was no problem taking all the math courses from Grade 9 and 10 math to Grade 11 Functions, Grade 12 Advanced Functions and Calculus, and Grade 12 Data Management. Even Physics, Chemistry and Biology were good.  Actually, I was an all-rounder but my grades in Math were the highest and were consistent. I always wondered why my math grades were the highest, but never found an answer. Anyway, apart from the grades, Math was something that felt like butter (smooth and easy). It didn't feel like a course at all but more like a game that was fun and challenging and I loved winning. It was something that got my blood pumping and I enjoyed all those problems and techniques of solving them that I used them in real life too and I became a good problem solver (claimed by my teachers). It still remains as my favorite passion that I'm glad to be pursuing. Now, I had never pursued computer science in high school neither had I any interest or knowledge in the field apart from a few courses like Information Technology, Business and Accounting. What made me choose this in University was because I realized, and also because my family and friends thought so too that my brain functions like a computer. It was always there but I had never recognized it until they started pointing it out to me and then I noticed it. I'm always very good with technology be it something I had never ever seen or operated before. I used to be able to operate it like a pro just after trying my hands for the first time that even baffled me when I thought about it. I used to always be a pen and paper person but after I learned typing (which was also fun), I used to type every word I hear/see on my imaginary keyboard. And when there was a technical problem, I used to always be able to fix it as if I was a technician. I understood then that I had this weird connection with technology and electronics that I needed to uncover and what more than to study Computer Science. I didn't have a career in mind like my fellow computer science students but I was vaguely intrigued by this field which made me select this program. It's good if you have a career in mind but I say you don't have to. Just find what you're most passionate about or interested in and pursue that. If you're good at it, chances are you'll do well in it and also have a successful career.
 
Can you describe your program(s)? What is it actually like?
 
My programs are very intensive. That's another thing- if you're choosing a program in this Department, then make sure you are motivated enough because it is challenging. So make sure you are ready for the challenges because they are not easy. I think this is the hardest department of UTSC but if you're hard working and are really passionate about computer science or mathematics or statistics, then you will do well. As it is, technology is upgraded every year. So make sure you are keeping up with the changes and gaining some hands on experience is also helpful. The old saying works very well here-"Practice makes a man perfect". Mathematics and Computer Science are all about practice. If you don't practice, it's hard to master the concepts to the degree required and desired. It's a field that's very application based and for that you need to be in good practice. Apart from that, we are fortunate to have some of the best instructors and TAs who are so knowledgeable and helpful that you won't have a question unanswered. I have also approached a different instructor sometimes and have gotten the answer to my questions. So, there are so many people you could go to for help. There's also the Math Stats Learning Centre (MSLC) in AC312 and IC404 if you need more help and tutoring.
 
What tips/advice can you provide to students just starting or considering this program(s)?
 
Make sure you are taking these programs for the right reasons because they are very challenging. You need to be very passionate about Computer Science or Mathematics or Statistics to overcome all the challenges. There's a lot of independent work, so having good study and work habits is necessary as well as good time-management and basic technical skills (if you're taking Computer Science). Lastly, practice! Do not expect to master something without practice especially in these programs. Try as many problems as you can until you're a pro-trust me, you need it.
 
What will you do with your degree after graduation?
 
I want to pursue graduate studies in computer science and at the same time gain valuable experience in the field and also learn something new like a new program or technique.
 
What has your academic journey during your time been like as you progress toward graduation?
 
In my first year, I had tried some A level Math and Computer Science courses as well as some biology and psychology courses as a backup. However, I did well in my Math and Computer Science courses plus I was interested in them, so I chose them as my majors. Second year was filled with all the second year requirements of the program and the same for third and fourth years. I also completed my breadth requirements by the end of my third year by taking two introductory language courses. Make sure you take all the A-levels first and then the B and C levels because they are the foundations for future courses and try to complete them in the year they correspond like A levels in first year, B levels-second year etc. so you can complete them on time.

Fauzan Kadri

Majors: Computer Science and Mathematics

What factors contributed to you choosing your program(s)?

I've always loved to create things. With the world evolving and relying more on computers to accomplish certain tasks, I want to make the most difference while I still love what I do. I've always been fascinated by logical challenges. By studying Computer Science and Mathematics, it showed me that the more I know, the more I realize I don't know. With new technologies coming out rapidly, this gives me more opportunities to explore more challenges, and at the same time, make the use of those technologies for the better.

Can you describe your program(s)? What is it actually like?
 

After 4 years of studying Computer Science and Mathematics, I've learned that the most important aspect of studying these programs is to never be afraid when you don't know something. When I see a question or a theorem that I don't understand, this is an opportunity for me to learn and to evaluate myself on how well I understand the material. Also, by learning various tools and techniques, it allowed me to take my education outside of the school. I've learned that I can use my education as a tool to develop software's that can benefit myself and others.

What tips/advice can you provide to students just starting or considering this program(s)?

You can never stop learning. School only teaches you the fundamental knowledge and some interesting topics. This can help you achieve certain goals in life but to be really well rounded, you should take the extra step and broaden your horizon. There are many resources at school and online to educate you on topics of your interest. Many professor's like to discuss topics that are of a student's interests. Also, network with others in your program. Many students are looking for interesting projects to work on and are happy to discuss it with others. Try to work on a project that will utilize the tools you learned in school. This will help you get a deeper understanding of the material and you'll possibly learn something new. In some cases, these projects become successful and are your key to getting a job.

What will you do with your degree after graduation?

My first goal is to secure a job and pay off my loans. The ideal position for me to work is in computer security because of the challenges involved and the ongoing learning you get out of it. After some time, I plan to come back to school and study Statistics.

What has your academic journey during your time been like as you progress toward graduation?

First year courses: When taking these courses, you'll know if you have an interest in these programs. Professors will teach you fundamental tools and techniques and ask you to use them on your assignments. The assignments tend to be basic but require time to complete them. About half of the midterm/final exam is based on the material you've applied on your assignments. Second year courses: Now that you know the fundamentals, you'll be working on interesting projects. In my second year, we developed an Android application. You may find yourself developing something of a similar interest. You'll also be going into more details on the theory on the materials you've learned in your first year. You'll also be expected to work in groups for some projects. Third year courses: Everything you've learned prior to your third year will be applied in this year. Third year has to do with the real world and real applications. You'll learn how software's are developed in corporations and apply the same process to develop a software for a real client. You'll study some research questions that researchers are currently working on. This is the year to branch into the field in which you want to work in after you graduate. Fourth year courses: This year specializes you in the fields that you are interested. Some examples of fields that you can specialise in are network protocols, computer security, entrepreneurship, and high level software development. To get a job in these fields, you must really understand them well. This year will teach you the core understanding on these topics and how you can use the knowledge in the real world, either on your own or within a company. If you master any of these topics, you'll open yourself a gate to high paying jobs.

Schinella D'Souza

Specialist: Mathematics - Comprehensive Stream, Co-op

What factors contributed to you choosing your program(s)?
 

Initially when I entered UTSC, I planned on doing a double major in Mathematics and Chemistry. I also enrolled in the Math co-op program as I wanted experience working in the industry in addition to what I was learning at school. Going into second year, I realized that I loved Math much more than Chemistry and wanted to study it in more depth. I found that Math at the university level was much more abstract and, as a result, more interesting and rewarding for me. I decided that I wanted to study it in greater depth so I switched to the Comprehensive Stream of the Math Specialist Program.
Can you describe your program(s)? What is it actually like?

Being in a Math Specialist program is definitely challenging but very worthwhile! I take a variety of courses in different areas of Mathematics which are not only computation-based but also involve writing proofs by utilizing definitions and theorems learned within the course. Apart from the theoretical side of things, as someone in the Math co-op program, I have had the opportunity to transfer my analytical skills learned in my courses to the workplace.

What tips/advice can you provide to students just starting or considering this program(s)?

1) If you enjoy Math but aren't sure if it is the program for you after first year don't give up just yet! For myself, I noticed that after first year, the Math courses you take become much more interesting. You will start to see the different areas of Math and you may even potentially find an area that greatly interests you.
 2) If you plan on working after graduation, try to enter the co-op program. Being in the co-op program greatly improved not only my communication and presentation skills, but also my ability to leverage the analytical and problem-solving skills learned at school in real-life applications.
3) A great opportunity at UTSC, at least within the CMS department, is the ability for undergraduate students to become TAs. Take advantage of this opportunity as it will help you develop and improve your hard and soft skills.

What will you do with your degree after graduation? (Future plans?)
 
After graduation, I plan to either go to graduate school or use the experience I gained in my co-op terms to pursue a position related to Data Science.

What has your academic journey during your time been like as you progress toward graduation?

In first year, I did generally well in my courses. However, because every program has a certain number of foundational courses that are mandatory, I did not do as well as I would have hoped in the courses that were not Math courses. After second year, I had completed all these foundational courses and was only taking Math courses. As a result, I was enjoying my courses much more and did considerably better. I have also noticed that as you take more and more Math courses, you understand what is expected of you and how you should study for such courses. At this point in my academic journey, I have become more confident in my ability to learn the material in a course because I know how I learn best and can study accordingly. If you are in first year in a Mathematics program, do not worry if you are not doing as well as you would hope! Mathematics is something that requires a great deal of patience and time to let the more complex ideas settle in. As long as you are working hard and managing your time effectively, Mathematics is something that is very doable.