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Reasons to be Proud - #R2bP: Master’s student in Mathematics, Ruan Olivier (26) has won the prestigious S2A3 (Southern Africa Association for the Advancement of Science) Medal for the best masters in 2021 in science.

The S2A3 Masters Medals have been awarded annually to the most outstanding research student in a scientific subject graduating at the Masters level at each South African university.

Ruan is no stranger to accolades, as he won the best First-Degree student award in 2015, and the best First Year Degree Graduate award in 2017. He was also a Mandela University Vice-Chancellor Scholarship as well as a Postgraduate Research Scholarship holder.

He was the only pure mathematics honours student in the department in his year, but he was happy for at least the other honours student in applied mathematics.

Half of Ruan’s MSc studies was done during the Covid-19 lockdown, but luckily, “as the Hungarian mathematician George Pólya said “All one needs for Mathematics is a pencil and paper.”  (There’s no experiments or equipment necessary)”, he says.

And yes, Mathematics is very abstract, he says.

“Research in pure Mathematics often does not have any real-life applications (yet…) – you do Math “for the sake of it” (and the beauty of it. What that means is that the research won’t necessarily have an impact on ordinary life or industry and most people do it because they enjoy it. However, sometimes applications are discovered many years later. For example, the prime numbers were studied long before computers were even an idea. But now prime numbers are an essential part of computer cryptography.

The title of his dissertation was “On the ideals and semimodules of commutative semirings”.

Ruan (26) went to Despatch High School and then studied BSc in Computer Science & Mathematics at Mandela University.

So far, he has not started a PhD yet as he is not sure about his future career and long-term goals. He enjoyed teaching first-year mathematics and second-year engineering maths at Mandela University in 2020, and he is currently teaching second-year advanced calculus at North-West University.

He will, however, be starting as a Software and Machine Learning engineer at a company in Stellenbosch in the new year as he wants to return to the coast, be closer to his family and try something different.

“I was thrown into the deep-end with the teaching when the Covid-19 lockdown happened. However, I am eternally grateful towards my supervisor, Dr Juglal, and my old colleagues, Dr Walton and Mr Petersen, whom I worked closely with at the time. I’ve learned a lot from them during that time. Their patience, advice and guidance are greatly appreciated” Ruan says. 

As for hobbies, he enjoys playing video games as well as cooking and baking.

Contact information
Ms Elma de Koker
Internal Communication Practitioner
Tel: 041-504 2160