Victoria Quance is breaking barriers as a woman in the male-dominated field of math. But she’s more interested in driving change than hanging around in the spotlight.
Quance is already using her math skills to better her community and contribute to scientific research, helping younger students in a thriving tutoring business as well as taking on a summer contract at Western, working with a team of avian experts.
She wants to use formulas and crunch data to solve real-world problems, especially in the field of biology or to battle climate change.
“I approach everything in my life with logic, and math is all logic. It fits perfectly with the person that I am. I really get to just be myself when I’m solving those problems and approach them the way I approach anything,” she said.
At first, Quance thought she wanted to be a high school math teacher, but when she transferred from Nipissing University to Western after two years, her priorities and career ambitions had changed.
“All the math teachers at my high school showed so much enthusiasm and made me fall in love with the subject; that’s why I originally wanted to be a math teacher. In university, my love for math got deeper, such that I wanted to continue with it in my career,” Quance said.
The future awaits
She realized she wanted a job “involved in high-level math.” Eventually, she hopes to land in data analytics or statistics.
In September, Quance will embark on a master’s program in applied math, also at Western. She said she was honoured to receive a Canada Graduate Scholarship from the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada to help fund her continued education.
“I remember telling my family I had this goal set for myself, getting into grad school. All those late nights studying, I kept my goal in mind. I kept telling myself: ‘Just one more semester, one more semester.’ The main driving force was getting to the point of being able to do more math,” Quance said with a chuckle.
Her undergraduate degree was a journey.
She started at Nipissing University, studying math with a minor in biology and playing varsity hockey. Transferring to Western she was looking for the opportunity to focus on her studies and build up a career in math.
The heart of the subject – the equations and the logical routes to find the answers – captivates Quance.
“Every problem in my life, I’ll approach it with logic rather than emotion.”
She said it helped her get along with her peers, often as the only woman in the room.
“It was really empowering. I love being able to pave the way for more women to join the field, because it’s definitely male-dominated. I love being in those spaces and holding my own and creating space for women to continue joining the field.” – Victoria Quance, math graduate
Passing on knowledge
Western also inspired Quance to flex her entrepreneurial muscles. Through a summer program to help young people launch small businesses, she created Accelerate Tutoring. She offers math, and now science, tutoring to Grade 7 and up, primarily focusing on high school students.
Accelerate Tutoring has grown well beyond a summer project, and Quance now has a team of tutors working with her. Networks at Nipissing and Western allowed her to recruit friends with lots of math knowledge, even adding a science student this year. The team works with 10 to 15 families through the school year and ramps up the client roster during the summer months when tutors have more time.
“It’s been really fun, I’ve learned a lot about how businesses work,” she said.
Most requests are for help with math, the subject students seem to struggle to grasp most, Quance said. But with a growing team, she’s been able to offer biology and chemistry tutoring as well.
“It has been a great experience and so much fun, too.”
‘So much happier’
Quance also came out during university, a process she described as part of finding herself.
“I’m a gay woman. I feel like I found myself in every way in university. I came out of these four years so much happier with the person I am,” she said.
“I’m from a small town and I’m happy to be able to represent the queer community and also represent women in my male-dominated field of math. I love being able to be a face for anyone who wants to join the science community.”
She hopes that representation will help make coming out easier for others in the future.
“I was surrounded by so much support. The process is not as easy for everyone as it was for me,” Quance said.
She credits math with helping her through challenges off-campus, too.
“Practicing my logical thinking in my classes helped me solve problems in all aspects of my life. It really goes both ways,” Quance said.
“I just love the feeling when I get to the end of the problem, when you realize you got the right answer. I don’t find that in any other subject, because there’s no right answer. The black and white nature of math is really satisfying.”