Opening possibilities: Removing Barriers to Maths
Growing up with a GP in the house, maths was always on the cards for Macquarie University student Aya Alwan.
“I was raised in a family that appreciated science and knowledge. My father was always my mentor and guide and helped me at every stage of my study,” she says.
The hard work has paid off for the Australian Mathematical Sciences Institute (AMSI) Winter School 2017 student and CHOOSEMATHS Grant recipient, with Aya currently completing her PhD in mathematical and statistical modelling.
Used extensively across many industry sectors, these modelling approaches allow estimation of performance variables in systems and processes. Aya points to transport as an example.
“Essential in transport planning, these models help variables such as traffic flow to simulate urban transportation systems. This helps in reducing issues such as traffic congestion,” she explains.
With dreams of using her specialist skills to drive industry research, Aya found AMSI Winter School the perfect combination of networking and exposure to cutting-edge scientific techniques within her field.
“Many of the courses and presentations had a direct or indirect relationship to my work. This represents a fortune to me. There is no other way to receive this amount of knowledge within such a short time,” she says.
Instrumental to this experience was a CHOOSEMATHS Grant funded by BHP Billiton Foundation. With Winter School falling at school holiday time, Aya would not have been able to attend without this support and the ability to bring her family.
“I would not have been able to leave my four kids at home for four weeks. Even if I could organise care, I would struggle to concentrate being away from them,” she says.
With maths grappling with a significant gender challenge, she believes these barriers contribute to the low number of women currently in high-level maths positions.
“Maths is an interesting area to work and research in, but lack of finding support, flexibility and time and space to concentrate are contributing to women leaving the field,” she says.
Events like Winter School not only provide access to learning and development but also support and mentorship from other women within the discipline.
“I believe it is extremely important for women to have access to support. I have found other women in the field to be a tremendous support. Opportunities such as Winter School provide access to build these essential networks,” she says.
Hosted by Queensland University of Technology, AMSI Winter School 2017 focused on computational foundations of data science.