Dr. Agnes T. Paras, Professor at the Institute of Mathematics and conferred UP Scientist I, has been fond of mathematics since she was young. “It was a subject that I enjoyed and was willing to devote more time to,” she recalls.
Dr. Paras entered UP as a geology major, much to the dismay of her father, who thinks it is a male-dominated scientific field. She eventually shifted to BS Mathematics to pursue her interest in math, which made her father happy and hope she would end up as a professor.
From the moment she graduated, Dr. Paras continued the dreams of her father to become a professor and obtained her Ph.D. in Mathematics at Wesleyan University, Connecticut, U.S.A.
Dr. Paras is an algebraist. She started her research in infinite abelian groups, and ring and module theory. She eventually shifted her studies to matrix analysis, an area combining matrix theory and complex analysis, concentrating on the algebraic aspects of matrix theory.
Mathematics has long been dreaded as a difficult subject by undergraduates. “We should understand that professors, in any field, won’t spoon-feed all the information. You learn math by doing it and making your own realizations, not just by listening and memorizing,” she emphasizes.
To anybody who finds math difficult, Dr. Paras highlights the importance of analyzing and studying the concept first, and to do the assigned exercises. “To learn math, one must be able to understand the definitions and principles. Once these are clear, work on the exercises to have a deeper appreciation of what is going on. The fun part of math is being able to appreciate the elegance of a proof or a solution, and arriving at a perspective which simplifies the problem at hand”, she says.
According to Dr. Paras, the UP Diliman Institute of Mathematics has more male faculty members compared to women, almost twice as many. However, if we compare it to Mathematics institutions from other countries, the percentage is significantly higher. Despite more women involved in mathematics in the country, Dr. Paras says that societal expectations are still holding back women in pursuing a full-time career in Mathematics. “More is demanded from women in our society, especially mothers,” she says.
Dr. Paras hopes the next generations embrace scientific mindsets to be the norm. “In the Philippines, many use superstition, religion and folklore to explain the things happening around us. I believe we are getting left behind because of this mindset.” she highlights.