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World renowned mathematician at MIT for barista training

31 January 2014

World renowned mathematician lands at MIT for barista training

Manukau Institute of Technology (MIT) was the destination of choice for decorated academic Professor Sir Vaughan Jones, who is keen to add the perfect latte to his skill set.

Raised in Cambridge and educated in Auckland, Vaughan has been knighted for his services to mathematics, and in 1990 was awarded the prestigious Fields Medal, known as the mathematician’s Nobel Prize.

Now based in the United States, Vaughan stopped in at MIT on his annual summer visit to New Zealand, for a short course in Barista Skills.

MIT’s on-campus café The Grind offers the ideal practical environment for budding student baristas to hone their skills.

Vaughan says, “I first took an interest in latte art while I was living in San Francisco.”

“Similarly to Auckland, there’s a really popular coffee culture there so I took the next step by getting a coffee machine at home, and learning to do it myself.

There was a lot of trial and error involved but I really like the analytical process and adjusting lots of different factors to achieve the perfect cup,” he says.

“The big rig they’ve got here is very impressive. Obviously it’s a lot more complicated than my machine at home but everything’s more consistent and the results are much more reliable.”

Lecturer George Win was impressed with Vaughan’s talents.

George says, “Vaughan’s passion for coffee is evident in his depth of knowledge and ability to make a great espresso. The commercial equipment takes a bit of getting used to, but it wasn’t long before Vaughan was presenting the perfect espresso.”

MIT’s Dean of Consumer Services Cherie Freeman says, “We are delighted to share our passion and skills with those who appreciate our enthusiasm for great hospitality and an excellent espresso.

“MIT’s world class facilities and staff make our training highly sought after.”

MIT Chief Executive Dr Peter Brothers says, “Here’s someone who has reached the top of his profession, and has in fact won the equivalent of Nobel Prize in Maths, and yet he’s continuing to expand his knowledge.”

“The message here is never stop learning, especially with facilities like ours on the doorstep,” he says.

“Whether it’s to get a better job, or improve your skills in something you enjoy, we proudly offer world-class teaching in a friendly, hands-on environment.”

While a career change from professor to full-time barista isn’t on the cards, Vaughan is looking forward to putting his newfound skills to the test at home. A proud Kiwi, who famously wore an All Blacks jersey when accepting his Fields Medal in Kyoto, Vaughan will also be giving a series of guest lectures in Mathematics at the University of Auckland during his visit.


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