Hi Aditi! Please could you tell us a little bit about yourself and your job?
I’m Aditi and I’m a senior systems engineer. The company I work for develops brand new technology and my job is to test it to make sure it works perfectly. I then work with other engineers to help them work out how we can improve it.
Why do you think maths is important?
I think maths is important because it allows you to translate problems that may seem like they can’t be solved and makes them into something which you can work out on a page.
For example, you might go to the swimming pool with a friend and you pay for the two of you to go in, and then your friend might pay for an ice cream for each of you. If you want to work out how to split the cost between you to make sure it’s fair, it’s essentially a maths problem!
How do you use maths in your job?
I mostly use maths to work out how well our equipment should work, and why. For example, we might know that a laser beam will point in a straight line, but will it still be straight if there is lots of wind, or if it’s really hot?
My job is to calculate how our technology will work in these different situations. Eventually, when the equipment is tested, it can then be checked against my answers to see how well it’s done, and then we can work out which parts might need improving.
Do you have any advice for someone who may find some parts of maths tricky?
I definitely found parts of maths tricky, and there are very few people who immediately understand how to do every type of maths. If there’s a part of it that you don’t understand, there’s always someone around who can help out. I use maths everyday and this happens to me on a regular basis!
What’s your favourite number and why?
The Golden Ratio (1.618…). The dots after it means that the number goes on for a lot longer!
The golden ratio is an expression which describes perfect proportions. It’s been discovered in both nature, in the arrangement of leaves and branches along the stems of plants, or in hurricanes, but also in art (the very famous Mona Lisa) and history (the angle at which the great pyramids of Giza have been built).
It’s amazing to see how much of the natural world uses the golden ratio, and how artists, architects and musicians have used it too.
If a school wanted a systems engineer to visit their school, what advice would you give them?
Ask parents or carers if any of them work in engineering, or if they know anyone who does. There are lots of different areas within engineering and most engineers have done a wide variety of things, which can show children that engineering is not just working with tools and equipment.
A lot of the work an engineer does is problem-solving and communicating solutions to a wide variety of people (i.e. a lot more people skills and soft skills are needed than the perception of the subject would suggest!).
Thank you Aditi!
How do systems engineers use maths?
When Aditi does her testing, she has to collect lots of data. She needs to record the exact power required for the laser to work and the precise conditions that made the laser not work. Once she has recorded all of her data, she then has to find the relevant bits and then study it carefully, to see if there are any patterns or if there are any little changes she can make for it to work better.
There are lots of calculations to be done. Aditi needs to work out how much power the laser needs to get to its target. Too much power and it would make it very expensive to run and could cause some serious damage; too little power and the laser wouldn’t be able to go as far as it needs to.
Fractions and percentages:
Once Aditi has completed all of her testing and has evaluated her results, she needs to work out exactly where she can make the biggest improvements.She might think of two different ways where she thinks she could make something better, so she’ll use fractions and percentages to work out which method is better. She might discover that making the laser more powerful would make it 10% more likely to go as far as it needs to go, but if she improved how the laser was aimed, it would improve how the laser worked by 15%.
Ratio and proportion:
It would be really expensive to build the first design of new technology at the size it’s eventually going to be. Once the designers have a very good design, and it’s been tested with computer programmes, engineers may make a model of that design. They don’t want to make it full-size, so they will make a smaller version which has to be exactly the right dimensions, so they will use ratio and proportion to make it accurate.