**Published on** December 4th, 2013 |
*by Stephanie*

# Emma Bland

**Position:** PhD Candidate, La Trobe University

**How do you introduce yourself at parties?**

Nothing captures an audience like telling them you do ‘space plasma physics’. I study the Earth’s ionosphere, the region of the atmosphere at the edge of space (70km to 600km altitude) that is particularly important for long-distance radio communications. I know it’s a bit shallow, but I chose this field partly because it sounds cool. Also, because I get to play with radars.

**Why mathematics?**

Being a physicist makes me a user of mathematics and statistics. I really enjoyed maths in high school, so I was keen to continue with it at university both out of interest and to support my studies in physics. Had I known more about career opportunities in mathematics back in high school, I might have gone down that path, but I love what I do and I get to use maths every day. It can be hard to make informed career choices when you’re a teenager; we need to spread the word to students that mathematicians solve real-world problems in important areas like health, finance, energy and ecology. Or you can join me on the dark side.

**Do you think that mathematicians deserve the “geek” tag?**

Probably, but many people who label me as a nerd or a geek don’t seem to understand the appeal of being a researcher. I enjoy problem-solving, and yes, I’m a bit quirky, but that’s a good thing, right? Of course I’m not a stereotypical geek – I’m a female physicist after all – so I love watching how people react when I tell them what I do.

**What area of mathematics and why?**

In undergraduate physics we used a lot of vector calculus, particularly in electrodynamics which is central to my research area. Thankfully, James Clerk Maxwell condensed most of electrodynamics into just 4 equations, but solving them isn’t always easy! There are lots of other things in my mathematical toolbox as well: linear algebra, differential equations, complex numbers, and a bit of statistics, for example.

**What has maths done for you lately?**

Maybe it’s not maths per se, but I’m one of those annoying people who counts cards when I play trick-taking card games. Sometimes it helps me win, but more often than not it just allows me to predict my own demise long before it happens.

**Do you have a favourite application or theory of maths?**

The matrix mechanics formalism of quantum physics is simply wonderful.[subscribe2]