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Numbers adding up for Opaki scholar

Liam Jolliffe on his graduation day at Cambridge University, England on July 20. PHOTO/SUPPLIED

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The world of high-level maths and physics has broadened life for Masterton’s Liam Jolliffe far beyond algebraic equations.

In between intense study for a Masters degree in mathematics at Cambridge University in England, he’s squeezed in visits to castles and an ascent of Snowdon, the highest mountain in Wales, among other off-campus activities.

But above all, since starting at Cambridge in October, Jolliffe, 23, has “learnt a lot of maths”.

The six-days-a-week, eight-week terms were busy, which meant plenty of learning was done outside the term, especially the finer details of the courses.

“It has been an intense year of study, but I enjoyed it, and have learnt a lot of maths,” he said.

Jolliffe, who attended Opaki School, graduated on July 20 with a Master of Advanced Studies, with the next step being a PhD in pure mathematics and mathematical statistics.

He has been offered a place working under the supervision of Dr Stuart Martin in a branch of algebra called representation theory during his PhD.

“The idea of representation theory is to take questions about abstract algebraic objects and turn them into linear algebra problems.

“The benefit of this is that linear algebra is very well understood, so these questions become easier,” he said.

Dr Martin will oversee his progress over the next three years.

“I’m really looking forward to starting the PhD, it will be different from previous years of study, because I won’t have exams to sit, and I will have freedom to explore ideas and determine the direction of my own study, which is exciting.”

This year’s graduation ceremony started with a procession on the university’s grounds, from Trinity College to Senate House.

Jolliffe said the ceremony was all done in Latin.

“I was presented to the vice-chancellor’s assistant by the praelector of my college, and I knelt at her feet while she conferred my degree.”

Jolliffe already knows the feeling of an elaborate graduation.

The former Dux of Wairarapa College spoke to the Times-Age after he graduated from the Victoria University of Wellington in May last year, four months before he departed for England.

At last year’s graduation, he was awarded a Medal of Academic Excellence – one of the university’s highest awards alongside a Bachelor of Science in Mathematics and Physics.

The year before, he was awarded the prestigious Woolf Fisher Scholarship which gave him a $300,000 boost to travel to Cambridge to complete a Masters, an entry requirement for a PhD.

Jolliffe has not had much free time during terms, so is about to take a three-week holiday in Italy.

However, he has a handful of assigned readings to brush up on before study starts again in October.

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