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In the news - Eugenie von Tunzelmann

Most people might not realise that a maths or science degree can set you on the path to a successful career in the film industry, but Eugenie von Tunzelmann is on a mission to spread the word about the creative opportunities available to those who study the subjects. Ms von Tunzelmann, 29, works for one of the world's leading visual-effects companies, Double Negative, creating awe-inspiring special effects for blockbuster films. She wants to inspire pupils with her journey from Oxford University to Hollywood.

How did your degree get you into movies?

"I've wanted to work in special effects since I was five and became captivated by films such as Ghostbusters, Terminator and Jurassic Park. It seemed like the coolest job I had ever seen. I didn't realise then you could do specific courses, so I did my degree in engineering and computer science because I thought it would be useful, then became a programmer before joining Double Negative seven years ago. I'm now a senior technical director."

How do you create special effects?

"I use algebra to write the computer programmes that create crowds and fire, for example. I have to create the code to be able to make the visual effects."

Which films have you contributed to?

"I worked on the Death Eaters in the Harry Potter films, creating ectoplasm and fire, and even sand for Prince of Persia. I created the fire in Hellboy II."

And maths and science are important?

"I found the maths syllabus at school very uninspiring; it didn't seem to show how maths fitted into the real world and made it irrelevant. But you can learn extraordinary things in both subjects and you can also be very creative. I want to show that studying both subjects can lead to exciting careers and I want to get children enthused about that."

How do you get your message across?

"I was interviewed for a website that promotes science and maths and I also took part in the Big Bang Science Fair, running a stall and being interviewed. I'm collaborating with an outreach worker from Imperial College London, producing short films that can be used as classroom resources. This all came about because I went to see colleagues at Double Negative and said I was keen to do this work. I have visited universities and, starting this year, I plan to visit schools."

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