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East London student produces rare science thesis

Former Hudson Park learner, Sarah Selkirk was awarded the Stellenbosch University’s prestigious S2A3 medal for the best Master of Science (MSc) in the Natural, Engineering and Medical Sciences.

Selkirk worked independently to complete her MSc thesis in one year, with two papers resulting from her mostly original work already accepted for publication.

In what Professor Ingrid Rewitzky calls a rare thesis, Selkirk’s work investigates different aspects of lattice path enumerations. These are combinatorial objects which can be used in fields such as probability theory, statistics and computer science.

Rewitzky, SU’s head of Department of Mathematical Sciences, says Selkirk’s MSc thesis is rare in a discipline such as mathematics, where original research is only expected at doctoral level.

 In 2018, she received the University’s Rector’s Award for academic achievement throughout her undergraduate studies. In 2019, she was awarded one of three TATA masters scholarships by the South African Women in Science Awards.

Selkirk founded the Stellenbosch University Mathematics Society (SUMS) which organises weekly Mathematics seminars for undergraduate students and has also been actively involved in the Mathematics Division as a tutorial assistant for first- and second-year mathematics students.

She enjoys mathematics and added that working on her thesis did not feel like work. “I believe in Parkinson’s Law, that work will expand so as to fill the time available for its completion. So, I set the goal of doing my MSc in one year and worked to try and achieve this.”

She will be going to Austria this month where she will do her doctoral research in the field of combinatorics at the University of Klagenfurt.

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