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CHOOSEMATHS Grant Recipient: Elizabeth Harris

Elizabeth Harris

University of Newcastle

Elizabeth Harris graduated with Bachelor of Mathematics with distinction from the University of Newcastle in 2017. She is currently studying Honours in Mathematics at the University of Newcastle. Her general area of interest is differential equations; and her current research involves applying a finite element method to remove impulsive and Gaussian noise from an image. When Elizabeth isn’t in class, she spends a lot of her time in the Maths clinic helping other students. You may not know that she has a third-degree black belt in Taekwondo, and she enjoys playing the electric bass.

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

The area I’m currently doing research in involves removing noise from corrupted images.

You received a CHOOSEMATHS Grant to assist your attendance at AMSI Summer School 2018. How important was this in terms of your ability to attend and fully participate in the sessions throughout the program?

Without the funding for accommodation, I would not have been able to afford to go to AMSI.

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?

I believe that if anyone really desires to be in mathematics, they will get there if they put in the hard work. Although not essential, it is beneficial to receive grants that enable one to participate in events like the Summer School.

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

The experience hasn’t impacted my maths studies, nor has it influenced the direction of my research.

What was the most valuable part of AMSI Summer School 2018 for you in terms of furthering your career in mathematical sciences?

I think the most valuable part was making friends with people doing maths from all over the country.

A presentation on the AMSI Intern program was included as part of the Careers Afternoon. One of the aims of the AMSI Intern program is to maximise employability and help prepare research graduates to drive industry/private sector research. Are you hoping to work with industry? How important is this experience for researchers? Particularly in terms of offering career flexibility for women?

I am not sure if I want to work in industry or not. I think it was good for people intending on going into research, so that they know there’s the option to work with businesses as part of their PhD.

The CHOOSEMATHS Grants are part of a broader program being delivered by AMSI Schools with support from BHP Billiton 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 problem for maths in Australia is the curriculum in schools – it is so different to the mathematics done in universities. For example: maybe if children got to attempt solutions to unseen (or even unsolved) problems, they may get more excited about mathematics, and want to pursue it as a career.

Did you always want to pursue a career in maths? Were you encouraged to study these subjects at school? Do any particular mentors come to mind? Any outstanding teachers?

In high school I wanted to be a maths/science teacher, mainly because I didn’t know that you could actually have a career in maths. I was encouraged to study whatever subjects I wanted, and those subjects just happened to be the maths and science ones.

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

To be honest, I’m just going with the flow. I’ll keep studying until I get a PhD if I keep on wanting to, otherwise I’ll find a job in industry.

Any other feedback/comments you would like to provide on the CHOOSEMATHS grant or AMSI Summer School 2018?

The Summer School was very enjoyable.