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Mathematician by day and dancer by night

At 23 years old, Mobeen Iqbal has a Master’s degree from Oxford, is completing a PhD at Imperial College, and tutoring MSc and MBA students. Impressed?  Well, it doesn’t end there. He is also an accomplished bhangra dancer and teaches the traditional folk dance originating from the Punjab in India.

His studies and area of expertise is maths. And in particular mathematical finance, which he uses to measure and predict things happening in the economic environment. However, he admits he applies maths to every facet of his life including his dance moves!

“My brain is like a flow chart. For me, maths means taking a problem and finding a solution."

Mobeen explains, “My brain is like a flow chart. For me, maths means taking a problem and finding a solution, and that’s how I think about most things in my everyday life. I see them in an analytical way.”

Considering his outstanding talent for maths, Mobeen confesses he didn’t enjoy maths at school and actually got pretty low grades. “I hated maths growing up. Not because of the subject, but because of the way it was taught.”

Mobeen, who is Pakistani and originally from London, grew up in Bahrain after leaving the UK at the age of four years old. He explains the teaching style didn’t suite him. “We were expected to follow mathematic formulas without really understanding the reasoning behind why it was done in that way, which I didn’t like.”

He fell in love with maths again after returning to the UK at 18 years old.  And he has made it his life, which includes being part of the academic team on the Master’s and MBA at Imperial College.

I ask him how this makes him feel? He replies modestly. “It is a challenge to be young and teach, especially when the people have more experience from having worked in the industry. But the main thing I realised is that this is also an opportunity for me to learn from them. They tell me about their experiences and there are no real conflicts.”

He comments that one of the reasons he loves living in London is the feeling that anything is possible. “There is so much help available, especially from your university. You can get things done in London; transport is not an issue; apps make your life easier. Just take it as it comes, you learn from every little experience.”

“Back in Bahrain, life is more laidback,” he shares with me. “When you go to a supermarket, they pack the bags for you. Here in London, you have to do it by yourself, which is good to do since you learn how to do things on your own.”

As a returnee to the UK he has also noticed some changes. “I was pretty familiar with British slang, but I wasn’t ready for London slang,” he begins to smirk. “One day, a person walked up to me and said ‘wah gwan’. I was puzzled as I didn’t understand what this person was trying to ask me.”

But it didn’t take him long to integrate and learn more slang, including “allow” – meaning to leave something alone, or to not worry about it.


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