Updated: Aug 28, 2021
Lara Vicino is a PhD student in Mathematics at the Technical University of Denmark.
Lara chose to study mathematics at university, because she loved the subject during high school. She was particularly fascinated by the fact that mathematics is basically "pure thought". Every student in high school has a difficult time deciding their career path and so did Lara, but one thing she was certain about was that her career choice had to include mathematics in one form or another. When Lara started university, she fell more in love with mathematics. She was studying B.Sc. in Mathematics at the University of Pisa, Italy. Lara had a little difficulty during her first year, however she took the challenges head-on and overcame them with great success. Lara states that she enjoyed the challenges and the struggle, as she was doing something which was really stimulating and engaging. She enjoyed her B.Sc. so much that she decided to continue with a M.Sc. in Mathematics from the University of Trento, Italy. This is when Lara decided to pursue an academic career. For her M.Sc. thesis she studied a topic which she found very engaging. That is when Lara realised how interesting such kind of work is and decided that she would love to continue working on such problems and questions. As a university student, Lara considers herself quite lucky as she got to meet many friendly and inspiring people. In particular, at the University of Pisa Lara got to meet quite a few women who were professors, and Lara developed a deep esteem and admiration for her B.Sc. thesis. She is a woman who is a mathematician and really taught her and supported Lara a lot, both on the scientific and on the human side. Lara believes that she owes a lot to her advisor, as it is because of her that she gained sufficient self-confidence to decide that she could really try to pursue an academic career.
Currently, Lara is pursuing a PhD in Mathematics at the Technical University of Denmark. She works with the Department of Mathematics and DTU Compute. Lara’s research project focuses on maximal algebraic curves and AG codes arising from them. It is mainly theoretical in nature, but the topics have many real-life applications which are very likely to be exploited in the future. One of the best things about mathematics according to Lara is the fact that it is really involved in a wide variety of fields and there are a lot of different jobs involving it, both in the industry and in academia. Of course one can work as a researcher at university or as a teacher, but one can also work as a researcher or a programmer for companies like Microsoft or Google, or be employed by banks or other institutions. In Lara’s own words, “everybody is looking for people who know a bit of maths out there!”
STEM to Lara means a combination of research fields that are making humans smarter, both on the side of advancing theoretical scientific knowledge and on that of developing breakthrough technologies that can change our everyday life. Lara is overall satisfied with the STEM, but there are certain changes that she believes would make life a breeze for women in STEM. She wishes for the following changes:
1) Changing the way in which we educate girls, naturally exposing them to more STEM and encouraging them to be curious about it.
2) Turning the spotlight on more role models for young girls.
3) Creating more spaces in which women in STEM can meet and exchange ideas with each other, and also gain consciousness of the fact that yes, we are here!
To encourage more girls to join STEM, Lara thinks nowadays things are improving and that there are increasingly more stories of women in STEM which are being spoken out. However, of course there is still a lot of work to do, and she believes one of the most effective things to do is continuing to turn the spotlight on women in STEM out there, so that girls can learn to naturally see themselves in these careers.
Lastly, here are Lara’s closing words of encouragement for young girls who want to join a STEM field:
“If you are passionate about something, just go ahead and pursue your passion and your goals, without fearing anything or anyone. Be confident and trust yourself, disregarding all the silly prejudices and stereotypes, because you are smart and there is nothing that you can't do. Trust yourself, work hard and really commit to it!”
I thank Lara Vicino for taking part in this project and answering all the questions in a very informative manner. I hope, your experience and STEM story will inspire a young girl to join a STEM field and excel just like you have.