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AMSI scholarship recipient profile: Amalan Mahendran

Amalan Mahendran

Queensland University of Technology

Amalan Mahendran is  currently a third year PhD student and a member in the Centre of Data Science at QUT. Amalan Mahendran undergraduate studies were aimed at statistics and computer science that led to a final year project of a statistical software for modelling binomial outcome data in R statistical language. This peaked his interest in statistical solutions through open-source software and led to the development of a handful of unique projects. Hence, The aim of his PhD project is to develop new experimental design related methods for big data and provide relevant statistical software, where researchers will have unfettered access for real world applications.

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

Real world applications of big data are frequent with new modes and massive amount of data collection. Current analytical methods are not equipped to handle such data, which leads to new methods, theorems and algorithms. Sub-sampling is one prominent method which is computationally efficient compared to analysing the whole of big data. In recent years several sub-sampling methods have been developed for regression problems. Through my PhD project I intend to address solutions for the limitations in the current algorithms and develop new sub-sampling methods for unexplored regression problems. Statistical and algebraic knowledge is required for this research project. Additionally, the algorithms that are developed under this project will be available as an open-source statistical software for anyone to access.

How did you get into mathematics/statistics/data science? Was there someone or something that inspired you to this field?

I always enjoyed the statistics and probability section of the applied mathematics branch.  At university I was fascinated how the concepts of statistics and probability could be applied for real world data and how does computing play a role in such applications. The theoretical concepts I studied were applied through various statistical software such that I would be prepared for real world scenarios. With more experience I was focused in providing statistical solutions in the simplest form such that anyone would understand them. Under this interest I started my PhD project on new methods for big data.

You received a scholarship to attend AMSI Summer School 2022. How important was this in terms of your ability to attend, fully participate in the program and meet others studying in similar fields?

As an international student who is conducting research with the support of the RTP stipend receiving the AMSI scholarship is quite a relief. Under the pandemic the (Bayesian Statistical Learning) lectures were conducted through an online medium. The course content was engaging, and the lab work was fulfilling. The events beyond the lectures were interesting, specially listening to experts who are applying mathematics to solve day to day real problems.

The purpose of Summer School is to give students an opportunity to develop their mathematical skills, meet like-minded people and network with potential employers. What was the most valuable part of the program for you? Was it the course content or the people you met? Do you have new ideas for your work/research or see it in a new light?

The most valuable parts of the program were the course and the careers day lecture series. In terms of the lecture series, I studied the importance of project and time management. The course content was tailored such that simple to complex models under Bayesian methods were explained clearly through theory and statistical software. At the end of each week an interactive session to answer our questions regarding the lectures and the assignment were held and it gave the opportunity for all the participants to clear doubts of different forms, which was the highlight of this Bayesian Statistical Learning course.

Summer School included a special Careers Day program which aims to help give students an idea of the kinds of career paths available to maths graduates in industry and private sector research areas. Were you previously aware of the types of industry opportunities available to mathematical science graduates? Would you consider working with industry? Do you feel better equipped to explore career options in the mathematical sciences after attending AMSI Summer School?

As a member of the Centre of Data Science at QUT, I did know the career paths available to maths graduates in industry and private sector research areas. I am interested in such research work that collaborates with an industry partner who expects to achieve a goal. After attending the AMSI Summer School I am willing to explore career options in the private sector focused on mathematical sciences.

AMSI Summer School was held as a virtual event. What was the biggest positive from your point of view holding it in this format and/or the biggest challenge?

As a third year PhD student time allocation to the AMSI Summer school based on a virtual event was pragmatic compared to an in-person event. However, there was the challenge of socialising with fellow participants through an online platform.

What advice would you give to someone who is considering applying for Summer School in 2023? Should they apply and why?

Attending the AMSI Summer School is a valuable experience for undergraduates and postgraduates. If they do apply my advice would be to not miss any of the events that are hosted, especially the relevant lectures to your interested course and show your enthusiasm in the course through engaging with other participants and the lecturing panel.

Where do you want the mathematical sciences to take you? Where do you see yourself in five, ten years time?

I want my interest in developing statistical solutions through statistical software to grow under different research fields. In five to ten years of time my intention is to have a collection of statistical software solutions collaborating with the private sector and universities.

Any other comments you would like to provide ?

The AMSI Summer School 2022 program was organised well, even though it was a virtual event because of the pandemic there was no strong negative outcome. The lectures and the extra events were exceptional. Hopefully, next time will be a in person event.