From Worcester’s Riverview flats to radiuses, ratios and radical signs — being born with the odds against her was not an equation that was ever going to stump Dr Ronalda Benjamin.
Today she holds no less than four degrees (all completed cum laude), and has received two Rector’s Awards. All before even turning 30.
“My secret has always been to work on my attitude. Whatever the goal or challenge was, if I had the right attitude, I managed to achieve it or get through it,” the former Breërivier High School student goes on to reveal.
“My advice to any young girl from Riverview flats today would be exactly what I told myself many years ago: do not look at the circumstances that you are in, look at the circumstances you would like to be in.
“However, also know that, as a woman of colour from a disadvantaged background, you are not starting from the same point as everybody else. Therefore, during the first few metres of your race, it is normal to feel incredibly lonely — even then, stay focused!”
She discovered her love and talent for mathematics early on in her life, and recalls always being fascinated by the different types of shapes and patterns that she saw all around her.
“During primary school I really enjoyed doing sums and, throughout my high school years, I grasped mathematical concepts fairly quickly. I even recall the specific day, while lying in my bed, when I said out loud to myself: ‘I think you would enjoy having to do mathematics every day of your life.’”
Although mathematics can often appear irrelevant to the untrained eye, Dr Benjamin explains that it is used as an essential tool to solve problems in almost any professional field — in addition to playing a powerful role in our growing understanding of the universe.
“To me, whenever a mathematical structure is a good model of a real phenomenon, mathematical reasoning and discoveries will be used to describe the physical properties of the universe. The fact that there is still so much mathematics to read, learn and think deeply about really excites me as a young mathematician.”
- By Steyn du Toit -