In CHOOSEMATHS grant winner profiles
CHOOSEMATHS Grant recipient profile: Alice Johnstone

Alice Johnstone

RMIT University

I am a Lecturer in Statistics and Data Analytics at RMIT University. I have recently been awarded an Early Career Development Fellowship to focus on my research over the next three years. My research interests focus on the statistical analyses of complex biological problems and bioinformatics.

Can you give me a quick overview of the type of mathematics you are studying and its potential impacts for the broader community

I am using applied statistics to help solve medical problems and understand patterns of disease through data analysis. This can help to identify those that are more susceptible, or what treatments are more effective.

You attended AMSI BioInfoSummer, what drew you to this event? What was the most valuable part of AMSI BioInfoSummer for you in terms of furthering your career in mathematical sciences?

I attended AMSI BioInfoSummer to learn about the recent developments in bioinformatics and enhance my skills in the computational workshops. The most valuable part of the AMSI BioInfoSummer for me was the connections I made with other researchers in the area and the ability to interact with the speakers and workshop facilitators directly.

Did this event lead to any new projects, collaborations? What were some outcomes in terms of your work?

This event has led to new contacts that I will be looking at developing collaborations in the future.

You received a CHOOSEMATHS Grant to assist your attendance at AMSI BioInfoSummer. How important was this in terms of your ability to attend and fully participate in the sessions throughout the week? How did you hear about the grant?

I found out about the grant for the event through an email that was forwarded to our department, in time for the second round of applications. This encouraged me to register for the event, as without the possibility of additional funding I may not have attended. Being successful with the travel grant ensured my attendance at the event and my full participation in the program.

How important are initiatives such as the CHOOSEMATHS Grants in terms of fostering the participation and achievement of women in mathematics, particularly in terms of access to networking opportunities and further training opportunities?

The availability of multiple grants for females encouraged me to apply as I do not think that I would have applied if there were a limited number of grants. I believe this is a common trend in female scientists who may be hesitant to apply for grants or awards. This can then lead to not participating in events and training opportunities.

I see these initiatives as extremely important to encourage female scientists to explore opportunities and continue their career development.

In what ways has the experience impacted your maths studies? Has it influenced the direction of your research?

Attending AMSI BioInfoSummer has encouraged me to explore bioinformatics further as a potential research topic. I also hope that collaborations will be possible from the contacts I made during the event.

The CHOOSEMATHS Grants are part of a broader program being delivered by AMSI Schools with support from the BHP Foundation to turn the tide on Australia’s maths deficit and strengthen maths education and participation of women across the discipline. What do you see as the big challenges facing maths in Australia, particularly for women?

I think the biggest issue is that maths is not seen as a possible career path beyond just being a high school maths teacher. There needs to be a better way of communicating the variety of careers that can be taken with maths skills.

Skills in maths can lead to many diverse and interesting jobs that involve travel, presentations, communication and the potential for international recognition.

Did you always want to pursue a career in maths? Were you encouraged to study these subjects at school?

I did not consider a career in maths at high school, I took maths to fulfil the requirement to get into a science degree at university. However, I enjoyed maths and was lucky to have a fantastic calculus teacher who had a mathematics PhD at my small rural high school.

Where do you see yourself in five or ten years time?

Hopefully with a permanent faculty position at a university, teaching and researching in applied statistics.

If a peer asked you if they should attend AMSI BioInfoSummer, how would you describe the conference to them?

The AMSI BioInfoSummer program is a good introduction to the areas that are being explored in bioinformatics. It is also a good opportunity to start using some of the tools in the program’s workshops with expert guidance.