Meet the Lecturers – Helen Crowley

Hannah and I were lucky enough to interview Mathematics Lecturer Dr Helen Crowley about her life at UEA. However, being a Doctor in Mathematics may not have been first on Helen’s list when she was younger. From her School years up to returning to a familiar campus, we chatted with Dr Crowley about her unique journey from Student to Lecturer.

Singing away to Queen’s greatest hits with friends in Maths class, this subject wasn’t taken all too seriously at first. It wasn’t until Helen’s teacher stepped in, and made a deal with the students: achieve an A* in the class, and receive a bottle of Champagne at the end. It was an offer that was hard to refuse, which led to Helen getting her A* – and subsequently, the deal was met.

Staying in Norfolk, Helen earned a place at UEA for Mathematics with a Year Abroad. The campus itself hasn’t always remained the same throughout the years, as she tells us about the old accommodation blocks, the new ZICER building and other areas of campus that were there long before us.

Dr Jane Goodall to open University of East Anglia's new £30m science  building | Eastern Daily Press
Another new sight to the campus is the New Science building

“Even though the buildings come and go, the atmosphere stays the same.”

Helen graduating at UEA with her husband!

In a Covid-world, many students attending UEA haven’t experienced a summer on campus like Helen did. Going in and out of the bar after exams, sitting on the steps in the Square with drinks… “there was always something fun going on” she continues nostalgically.

Some other fond memories of being a UEA student were raising money for Comic Relief in an unusual yet surprising way: by shaving Lecturers’ beards! Another wholesome time she recalls is hiding behind someone in Lectures during questions, who would then become her husband.

“It was the pinnacle of what the Maths department is like and still like: family, community, and such a supportive department.”

Helen then went on to study a PhD in Number Theory, specialising in elliptic curves and Divisibility Sequences. In Mathematical terms, this study includes the Euclidean Algorithm, Fermat’s Little Theorem, and lots of Modular Arithmetic!

Part 2 — Is Elliptic Curve Cryptography (ECC) a step towards something more  — Understanding ECC | by Peter Reid | Medium
Addition within an elliptic curve

Equation for Elliptic curve:

$$ y^2 = x^3 + ax + b $$
Concrete UEA issue 285 by Concrete - UEA's official student newspaper -  issuu
A newspaper article by The Concrete, celebrating UEA’s 50th Anniversary

(A little-known fact about Dr Helen Crowley is her PhD is always next to her, as she kindly holds it up to the camera to show Hannah and I on our Teams call).

It didn’t cross Helen’s mind about returning to UEA until the 50th Anniversary of the University, when she was invited back after bumping into some old colleagues. 9 years later, she teaches Real Analysis to 1st year students, a module which does take some getting used to, as mutually agreed by the 3 of us.

Helen passed with flying colours in our concluding quick-fire round:

Pure Maths or Applied Maths?

Pure.

Tea or Coffee?

Tea in the morning, then coffee throughout the day!

What book are you reading at the moment?

The Discworld Novels by Terry Pratchett.

Are you a morning or a night person?

Night. I hate getting up.

What’s your favourite Greek Letter?

Epsilon. But in LaTeX I like to use $\texttt{\varepsilon}$ ! (That’s $\varepsilon$ rather than $\epsilon$.)

What’s your least favourite Greek letter?

Probably psi ($\psi$) or phi ($\varphi$) because I always get them confused. I don’t even know which ones which!

Who is your favourite Mathematician?

At the moment Hannah Fry, she’s really engaging, and in Maths it’s really important that us girls stick together, to show the world that we can do the Maths.

Her advice for students: Don’t rule anything out! Keep positive! 🙂

Helen with Professor Tom Ward, one of her PhD supervisors.
Helen with Dr Matthew Turner, her tea-drinking buddy!

Leanne is a 2nd year Mathematics Student at UEA. Her learning consists of Inviscid Fluid Flow, Linear Algebra and other complex subjects, though it was the Differential Equations module that won her over! Integration and Differentiation are her cup of tea, and the methods are ‘just fascinating’ (when it works!)

On the side of her degree, Leanne plays for the Norwich Devils Women’s American Football team. It’s intense but has an incredible fast-paced environment.

She believes the best way to grow is to speak to new people, ask questions, and to become what you respect. She loves writing about people, and telling their stories.