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Nicholas Maurer

AMSI Summer Research Scholar 2019-2020

What is your role in the Mathematical Sciences?

I use mathematical tools and techniques to solve real world problems. In my current job, I explore the future of our energy system using large-scale optimisation models. I’m trying to answer questions like:

  • What is the optimum mix of different generation technologies?
  • What does a resilient and zero-emission power system look like?

I’m passionate about education and mathematics and am always willing to engage with schools or other organisations to help make a difference where I can.

As an AMSI alumnus, how did participating in AMSI programs support your career trajectory?

Participating in AMSI’s summer research program helped solidify my desire to do a PhD. I have a particular memory of former AMSI director, Prof. Tim Brown, speaking at the close of the conference. He spoke about his PhD experience and how it shaped his life. It was really inspiring, and I left feeling committed to follow through on my own desire to do further research.

You are planning to study a PhD at MIT in September later this year as a John Monash Scholar. Could you tell us a little bit about what you are planning to study and advice you would give to students in the mathematical sciences interested in further study abroad?

I will be completing a PhD in Social and Engineering Systems at MIT. This is an interdisciplinary program, combining systems theory, economics, and data science to address some of humanities most pressing challenges. Students work in areas as diverse as AI regulation, health care, social networks, misinformation, and climate change. I’ll be focusing on energy and climate, with the goal to develop a better theory for energy system planning that includes both renewable energy and storage.

I’m yet to go overseas, so I can’t give too much advice. However, if like me your passionate about a particular field of knowledge, you should do everything you can to be in the best place in the world to work on it. That’s what I’ve done, and although it hasn’t been an easy road, I’ve always felt motivated and that’s made the biggest difference.

In your previous role as a senior UQ Outreach Ambassador, you inspired high school students to pursue tertiary education, with an emphasis on STEM disciplines and founded Lambda Learning to further engage students, particularly in mathematics. What the 2024 AMSI Year 12 Mathematics Participation Report Card continues to show is that the maths participation in Year 12 remains at all-time lows. Given this data, hat words of encouragement would you give to young people unsure whether they should continue study in maths and STEM disciplines?

Don’t give up! Mathematics opens the door to SO many opportunities. It equips you with the skills and discipline to solve problems and that is a key ingredient to being successful in life. I know that maths can be hard and abstract, I was there, I almost failed maths in grade 8. Luckily for me, I was blessed with great teachers who pointed me to excellent resources. It led to an explosion of curiosity which began a journey that’s ultimately led me to where I am today.

What do you hope for the future of mathematics in Australia and globally?
I hope the narrative changes. I hope we stop seeing maths as a subject for the “smart few” and start seeing it as something every student can get involved in. I think fear holds a lot of people back. To counter-act that we need to deemphasise performance on exams and emphasise curiosity and a give-it-a-go mentality. The process is often much more valuable than the result. To help with this, we need to draw on new educational tools that make maths more engaging and fun.

What are your hobbies or interests outside of work? 

I love to play sport, read books, and go hiking. I also love spending time with my family—my wife, Andrea, and our energetic kids Elaine and Zack.

This interview is part of our AMSI alumni Series. If you’re an AMSI alumni, we would love to hear what you have been up to! Tag us in your posts on LinkedIn and X @DiscoverAMSI so we can share your achievements. Please contact us if you would like to be featured in our monthly newsletter:


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