Mathematics is a Beautiful World: President’s Medallist

Yilin Chen has won the President’s Medal.

Yilin Chen, a 23-year-old international student from China, had no idea she could even be in the running to win a President’s Medal.

But the successful mathematics student has completed her bachelor’s degree, with a major in mathematics and a specialization in statistics, and an award that comes as a complete surprise.

When she originally enrolled at Carleton in 2012 in the combined honours statistics and economics program, Chen found economics too easy. She completed four years’ worth of undergraduate economics courses in only five terms.

“When I decided to drop this major, lots of people tried to talk me out of it. But I knew I wouldn’t accomplish anything if I stayed in economics, because I don’t have a passion for it.”

In fact, Chen followed her instincts and decided to focus on mathematics. From the moment she took in her first honours mathematics course, she was amazed.

“I misunderstood that math was just manipulation of numbers. But in the course, we were asked to explore what is behind every formula and theorem. There is a world behind every formula and it’s as beautiful as all the other worlds.”

Chen didn’t always find her program at Carleton easy. There was one term, she says, when she was taking six classes, working part time, and pursuing research with her professors.

“So crazy!” she recalls. “I am the only child in my family. My parents were overprotective when I was growing up and I had never had this kind of experience. Looking back now, this tough time made me develop into a more confident and independent person.”

She appreciates the attention she received from Carleton and from her professors.

“Because of my language barrier, I was shy and quiet. There are thousands of international students like me, but I am one of the luckiest. My professors constantly encouraged me, gave me a chance to be a research assistant and a teaching assistant and invited me to seminars.”

While Chen is currently visiting her parents in China, she is preparing to complete the master’s portion of her fast-track statistics program at Carleton and, if all goes well, she may go on to pursue a PhD.

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Susan Hickman

By Susan Hickman

For nearly four decades, journalist Susan Hickman has written about every imaginable subject for sundry newspapers and magazines in Canada and abroad, as well as for CBC TV and CBC Radio. She has also managed various publications, including academic newspapers and technology magazines, and was recently commissioned to write a guide for foreign missions serving in Canada. Currently, she is working on a couple of personal memoirs.

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