UCL News


Seven questions with Rafael Prieto Curiel and the Chalkdust team

27 March 2015

Seven questions with Rafael Prieto Curiel and the Chalkdust team

This week we put seven questions to Rafael Prieto Curiel and the Chalkdust team, made up of students from UCL Mathematics.

Research project: Chalkdust

Department: UCL Mathematics

Members of team: Rafael Prieto Curiel, Anna Lambert, Matia Miglioranza, Pice Preeyakorn, Huda Ramli, Samuel Brown, Sebastián Bahamonde, Pietro Servini, Matthew Wright, Matthew Scroggs, Jessie Jing and Adam Townsend

Tell us more about your research project:

Our project, Chalkdust, is a new magazine and a new space to share maths in a fun and entertaining way. We want to deliver interesting articles and ideas and create a new hub, not only for mathematicians, but for everyone who enjoys a puzzle, or simply wants to share part of their research.

The magazine is not just about mathematics; for example, in our first issue we have an article about wormholes written by a physicist, and for an upcoming issue we have an article on statistics.

We will have some printed editions of the magazine, but Chalkdust will be mainly web-based and can be viewed via: chalkdustmagazine.com, and on the Chalkdust Facebook and Twitter channels.

Seven questions with Rafael Prieto Curiel and the Chalkdust team

What makes it so important (and interesting)?

Maths has a bad reputation – it is either considered to be too hard or too boring, but we want to help people realise that it's neither hard nor boring.

Not only it is used in day-to-day life, but it also is a very interesting and amusing science. What we have tried to do at Chalkdust is create a space that can be enjoyed by everyone, simply because it’s not a journal, and it’s not a textbook.

It’s a collection of articles, features and pictures that we think are interesting, fun, and thought-provoking.

What has been a personal highlight so far?

Constructing a team that has so many bright and refreshing ideas and ways on how to share science.

Everybody in the team has contributed to the creation of the magazine, inputting a little bit of their own personality into the pages.

When I first read one of the articles, I couldn’t stop laughing because the author (Adam Townsend) created such a smart way of playing with the mathematical language.

Explain some of the challenges involved in working on a research project.

One of the biggest challenges is the fact that even though we are barely starting the project, we have to appreciate that we are not going to be here forever.

Since we want Chalkdust to be a long-term project, we are always concerned with leaving the future generations a fun and entertaining way to share mathematics with the world.

What advice would you give to an undergraduate student hoping to pursue a research career?

Undertaking research can be very challenging, but my best advice would be to always try to create teams. An individual has lots of skills, but when you recognise your weak spots, you might discover that they might be complemented by someone else's strengths.

The groups of people that complement one another are the perfect team to work with, as we've seen with Chalkdust. We have the more outgoing personalities, and the reserved ones too; we have people who are concerned with details and the ones who think of the big picture – it is a great team in which we are all learning from one another.

Any idea what’s next after the project finishes?

The first issue has just been released, but that does not mean that the project ends there – we already have the second edition of the magazine in the pipeline.

We want to create a hub with useful information, resources, puzzles and everything that a mathematician could ever wish for from a website, and we are in the process of getting there.

Describe your perfect evening (or weekend) after a long week.

A perfect evening has to include many things. First, I need to be surrounded by great people that make the evening pleasant, entertaining but also challenging.

If after a couple of pints I find myself talking with the Chalkdust team about politics, philosophy or science, the evening just got better. Nothing surpasses the feeling of walking back home with a thousand new ideas circulating through my brain.