Agnese Barbensi


Dr. Agnese Barbensi is a Research Fellow in Mathematical Biology in the School of Mathematics and Statistics. She works in a branch of maths called topology that studies the shapes of spaces and the shapes of things.  She uses this branch of maths to try and characterise the shape and 3d configurations of bio-molecules. In particular she's interested in DNA, chromatin and proteins.

Originally from Italy, she's spent the last six years living in the UK in Oxford and has only just arrived in Melbourne.

What is the best thing about working in maths and stats?

The best thing about working in maths is that it is a community which requires the effort of people from many different backgrounds. I mean, it really is a collaborative field. My normal project usually relies on at least five different people, and I like working with and being part of a team.

What are you most proud of achieving in your career so far?

In the last couple of years, after defending my thesis, I started feeling like I belonged. Like I actually know something, and I can talk about what I know and that I have something to contribute.

What was your relationship with maths and stats like in school?

I liked school. Maths was kind of easy for me but, to be honest, it wasn't my favourite until I was about 17. I thought I was going to do literature in university or maybe Greek or Latin. In the end I chose maths because I thought I needed something challenging and that had structure.

What do you think is an important skill for a mathematician/statistician?

I think patience. At the beginning, especially as a student, but often even now, it takes me time to understand something. There are bright people in maths who may understand things immediately. I'm not one of them and being patient and resilient has been something that really helped me.

If you could share a meal with any mathematician/statistician (alive or not), who would it be?

Alexander Grothendieck. He worked in the field of algebraic geometry.

What do you like to do in your free time?

I like to cook. My three favourite things are hikes, nature and food.