Growing up in Vangaindrano in the south east of Madagascar, it was the precision and rigorousness of mathematics that first drew Dr Eric Andriantiana to the field. Today he holds a Phd in Mathematics from Stellenbosch University and lectures at Rhodes University in the Eastern Cape.
Dr Andriantiana completed his undergraduate studies at the University of Fianarantsoa in Madagascar. Because his university did not offer postgraduate studies in mathematics, a new career path opened when he obtained a bursary from the African Institute for Mathematical Sciences (AIMS) in Cape Town. With the help of AIMS, and after adapting to studying in a new language, he completed both an MSc (2010) and a PhD in Mathematics (2013) at Stellenbosch University.
He agreed to answer a few questions about his studies and subsequent career path:
When and when did you decide to study mathematics?
In my childhood, people used to tease me for having a big head, and my dad usually said this meant I will be good at maths. Also, almost every time an aircraft passed the sky over our village, which was not too often, my dad made several comments about it, such as, 'One need to be good in mathematics to become the pilot of an aircraft'.
But what really attracted me to mathematics, was its precision and rigorousness. After an exam in mathematics, chemistry or physics, I would know if I did well or not, and I like this. With other courses I would not be so sure until the result came out. After specialising in mathematics at university level, I have been continuously impressed by the beauty of mathematics.
When and how did you decide to pursue a career in academia?
From the first time I started thinking about a career, I had always wanted to be an academic. I am glad I made it.
But, among other reasons, I have also been influenced by my parents and relatives. My dad and one of my grandfathers are primary school teachers. They always preached to us about the importance of education. I ended up being inspired by their passion for education.
I have also been inspired by the amazing lecturers whom I have visited all over the world for the purpose of education.
I understand teaching as an act of helping needy young people to have a better future, as a way to help a country to have better citizens and as one of the best ways out of poverty.
All these factors strengthened my desire to become an academic.
Please describe a typical day in your life? What is great fun? What is most challenging?
Typically, my day is a mixture of formal lecturing, discussion with students who did not agree with some content of the course but only dare to talk about it after the class, reading articles or books to review, or writing down the ideas that come to my mind until I see where it breaks down, as well as playing with my child. So far I enjoyed all of those.
What I often find very challenging, is to stop thinking about a beautiful mathematical question that I could not answer.
Advise to learners, students considering a career in science and specifically mathematics?
Do not rush to restrict your field of study or research. It is good to be focused, but you should stay open to other fields of research related to your main interest. Never miss an opportunity to learn new things.
Choosing to become an academic and a researcher is choosing to face increasing challenges. Do not expect things to get easier. Good practice, hard work, persistence and networking usually help.
For more inspiring stories from our BSc alumni, visit http://www.sun.ac.za/english/faculty/science/news/alumni-news#