Author: Solene Vidal

Applied in: Winter 2019

University Offers: UCL, Warwick, Imperial College

Mathematics has become a true passion for me over the years, generating increasing excitement as I experience its deepening complexity and gain insight into its endless possibilities that explain the workings of the universe. I am fascinated at its underpinning of developments in Artificial Intelligence and machine learning, allowing the human world champion of Go – a game supposedly too complex for machines - to be beaten for the first time by the computer AlphaGo. Conversational artificial intelligence similarly probes new boundaries, with chatbots such as Siri and Alexa mirroring human communication strategies and answering more challenging queries everyday.

Thriving on academic challenge, I pursue a science-based Baccalauréat with Further Maths, consistently gaining highest class ranking. I enjoy the demands of complex problems that require logic for their solution, seeing it as a form of game. This lies behind my choice of Russian as an option, a language I have studied for seven years. Although considered difficult, I am attracted by its logical grammatical structures which greatly facilitate my learning and enable me to excel. Mathematics has similarly helped develop my critical thinking, teaching me that there may be many different approaches to solving a given problem. Calculating the digits of Pi (an irrational number), for example, triggered my curiosity because there are various algorithms providing a way in. The real challenge, as described by Bellos in “Alex’s Adventure in Numberland”, is to be sufficiently creative to find a new method that converges faster than previous ones.

I enjoy reading extensively about my interests. A favourite piece is “Closing the Gap” by Vicky Neale, highlighting the complex world of prime numbers - which have always surprised me by their numerous and unexpected applications in fields such as cryptography. I was particularly struck by the joint effort made by mathematicians to find the least gap separating consecutive primes attained infinitely often, through the Polymath8 project. Although the first proof was a major achievement, proving that the gap could be no more than 70,000,000, thanks to many improvements from a huge community of mathematicians, it quickly went down to 246. This project surprised and impressed me as I found discoveries often to be the result of many small contributions.

My curiosity has drawn me increasingly to the field of computer science, leading me to attend a 2017 summer course at Cambridge University focused on website development. Leveraging coding languages HTML, CSS and Javascript, I managed to create an interactive image gallery written on Github. Dealing with programming taught me to be not only meticulous - as a small syntax mistake may well induce a program error - but also to think ahead, as coding difficulties often arise from lack of planning. The pleasure I gained helped me understand the innumerable opportunities enabled through programming. I was able to reinforce the experience through a two-week internship shadowing different teams at ASOS, discovering software engineers to be the backbone of this online platform.

The piano (currently preparing Grade 7) represents for me a contrasting, but very real, source of pleasure. In music as in maths, I have been fascinated to discover a point where investment in study allows a level to be reached where I can detach from the academic process, to join the flow and elegance of the material. I believe also in active recreation – representing my school in Handball at the 2016 London Youth Games. Here, as elsewhere, team participation teaches me that major achievement often depends upon cooperation with others. I am eager to continue playing Handball at university.

I look forward to my university studies in Mathematics and Computer Science deepening my understanding so that I may play my part in tomorrow's digital revolution.

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