Sarah Kavanagh

BA Mathematical Studies & Music
MA Mathematics

Current Status

Actuary, General Insurance Company

Why did you study Mathematics at University?

The pure simplicity but yet incredible power of Mathematics really appeals to me. I enjoyed Mathematics in secondary school, the wide variety of topics and the many problems to solve. Not knowing exactly which career path to take, I decided to focus on my favourite subjects and take it from there. I think Mathematics most suited my analytical mind, and an undergraduate course in Mathematical Studies in Maynooth, only increased my hunger and passion for the subject. Continuing on to do a Masters in the subject just felt like a natural progression at the time, the degree in Mathematical Studies definitely left me wanting more. The two year Masters was hard going at first, I underestimated the jump from the Mathematical Studies degree to the taught Masters, despite warnings from lecturers. Subjects were tough, fast moving and very abstract but this only made me more determined to work hard, understand the subjects and do well. I have always loved the challenges Mathematics offers, how an impossibly difficult problem can be chipped away, broken down and eventually solved by using logic and reasoning. The feeling you get when you solve a problem that you've been working on for days is amazing, and I don't think you can get that from any other subject.

Describe what you do now and how mathematics is useful to you.

I am now a Trainee Actuary in a General Insurance company, my job involves writing computer programmes and analysing data in order to provide people with dependable and competitive insurance products. It is an ever changing industry, and actuaries have to be available to constantly update and revise their methods in order to keep ahead of the curve and be prepared for environmental and financial problems in the future. Mathematics, statistics and probability are used directly in my job but an analytical mind and good problem solving abilities are also crucial. A strong mathematical ability is therefore invaluable. As a trainee, I am also required to pass exams in order to become a qualified actuary. Mathematics is directly involved in this and having a strong grounding in the subject is essential.

What advice would you give to someone who is thinking of doing a degree in Mathematics?

If you have a passion for the subject go for it! A degree in Mathematics will open up so many doors for you and will present more opportunities than you can imagine. There is so much more to mathematics than what is covered in the Leaving Certificate, and studying Mathematics at University is an eye opening experience. It can be at once an exciting, frustrating and satisfyingly rewarding subject. I do not regret one minute of the five years I have spent studying mathematics, and know that without doubt, that they will stand to me in the future.

Would you recommend that people study Maths in Maynooth?

I think a huge part of my love for Mathematics comes from the fact that I studied it in Maynooth University. The Mathematics Department there is ever changing and developing. The lecturers are passionate about what they do and take great interest in their students. I always found them approachable, and when they saw that you had a desire to learn they would help you in every way possible. There were often times when the going was tough but with their guidance, no problem be it academic or personal was insurmountable. Maynooth University itself is a brilliant University, it is small in comparison to other Universities in Ireland, making it friendly and intimate. If I was back doing the leaving certificate again, knowing what I know now, I would definitely still choose Mathematics in Maynooth as my next step. I can truly say that the best years of my life so far were spent in the Mathematics department of Maynooth University !