Olivia Keogh, winner of the Hamilton Prize for mathematics
Olivia McLoughlin, DCU final year actuarial mathematics student, winner of the Hamilton Prize, pictured with Danny McCoy, chief executive officer of IBEC, the prize sponsor and Dr Mary Canning, President of the Royal Irish Academy

Final Year Actuarial Mathematics student wins Hamilton Prize

The Hamilton Prize in Mathematics, a prize awarded by the Royal Irish Academy, and which goes to the third year undergraduate student taking a mathematical subject at each of Ireland’s nine universities, has, at DCU, been won by Olivia McLoughlin, 23, a final year student in actuarial mathematics.

The Hamilton prize is named after Dubliner William Rowan Hamilton, a renowned 19th century mathematician who, following an eureka moment while walking on the banks of Dublin’s royal canal, carved out the solution to a problem - how to represent movement of objects in 3D space - on the stone walls of Broome Bridge in Cabra. 

Olivia, who originally studied psychology at Trinity, dropped out and then worked for a year before returning to college to study actuarial mathematics. Returning to study actuarial mathematics at DCU was the best move of her life, she said, and she has thrived in the analytical problem solving environment. 

“There are 40 people doing my course, so it is almost like a second school,” says Olivia McLoughlin, who learned about her award in an email from the Royal Irish Academy. “Coming from a quiet school in the countryside, it is a nicer atmosphere for someone like me.” 

At DCU, the campus is manageable, she says, everyone knows each other well, and small classrooms are used for teaching instead of large lecture halls. It is less intimidating than a large university, she says, given that she grew up in rural county Longford. 


Fourth year actuarial mathematics student, Olivia McLoughlin
The Hamilton Prize for Mathematics, won by Olivia McLoughlin, pictured here in the Maths Learning Centre at the DCU library, goes to the third year undergraduate DCU student who achieves the highest academic grade in a mathematics-based subject.

After leaving psychology at Trinity, Olivia returned home to live with her family in Longford and she worked for a year in Dunnes Stores. 

“I took a year out, and did a lot of research into jobs and careers, but thinking I was back at square one,” recalls Olivia. “I was clueless about what I wanted to do.” 

“My mother mentioned to me that she knew someone who was analytical, like me, and liked solving problems and would I talk to her about her job,” says Olivia. “She explained the job of an actuary to me, and how she got there - her career path, and I thought it was interesting.” 

“Up to that I might have heard of an actuary in passing, but thought it was just a glorified accountant. I had done accountancy in school and wasn’t interested in it.” 

“The job of an actuary sounded a lot more interesting,” says Olivia. “It involved pure maths and I thought it would be challenging and involve problem solving.” 

Olivia, whose father is a farmer and her mother was a HSE nurse, says that she has experienced a few similar eureka moments, though not as many as she would like. 

“Sometimes I could spend hours working on a problem, then suddenly I might figure out what I have been doing wrong the whole time and have a lightbulb moment,” says Olivia.

“It doesn’t really happen to me as often as I would like, but when it does it is really satisfying; all those hours of hard work have paid off,” says Olivia whose brother Daniel and sister Grace are still in secondary school. 

As part of her degree, Olivia did an eight-month Intra placement at Liberty insurance. 

“ I worked on the pricing team,” says Olivia. “I had a really good manager who gave me lots of good projects to work on, like validating the mathematical models that are used there for pricing and insurance.” 

Olivia has a job waiting for her at Liberty in July after she graduates.