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CHOOSEMATHS Grant recipient profile: Emily Plant

Emily Plant

University of Southern Queensland

Emily Plant has spent the last three years studying a Bachelor of Science (majoring in Mathematics and Statistics) at the University of Southern Queensland in Toowoomba. She is also involved in USQ’s peer assisted learning support program, Meet-Up, where she leads course specific sessions independently in which students learn collaboratively. As Emily is particularly interested in the bioinformatics and biostatistics fields, she is considering a future career in them. Emily is continuing her studies by commencing her Honours degree in 2018, also at the University of Southern Queensland.

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

My Bachelor degree has provided me with the necessary foundation in a broad range of topics to pursue further studies in mathematics and statistics, such as my upcoming honours. These further studies will be where my work will impact the broader community.

How important was receiving a CHOOSEMATHS grant in terms of your ability to attend and fully participate in the AMSI BioInfoSummer 2017 sessions throughout the week?

If I had not been received the grant, I would not have been able to fund my attendance of BioInfoSummer myself.

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?

These initiatives are hugely important. The grants especially allow students to attend these events when they otherwise couldn’t, and therefore provide a fantastic opportunity for networking.

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

I attended BioInfoSummer to see if a career in bioinformatics or biostatics is something that would interest me. I’ve determined that such a career does seem enticing, so in the future I may pursue more biologically oriented positions and opportunities.

What was the most valuable part of AMSI BioInfoSummer 2017 for you in terms of furthering your career in mathematical sciences?

Learning about all the exciting research the speakers are doing. It was an invaluable opportunity to help give some insight about which direction I would like to take my mathematics career in and what new and exciting areas are available to me in the future.

A presentation on the AMSI Intern program was included as part of the Careers Session. 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’m not yet sure if I wish to work with industry/in the private sector, but regardless, the AMSI Intern Program sounds like an excellent opportunity that I may wish to participate in in the future.

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 that one of the main challenges facing maths in Australia is that we tend to have a mindset that maths is not applicable to the “real world”, when in reality it is a vital skill for many careers. I’m not sure why particularly women are underrepresented in maths, but I’m certain that the problem is complex and multifaceted.

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?

Throughout high school I didn’t have any idea what I wanted for my career, beyond attending university. I chose maths because I did very well at it and I enjoyed it, but I may not have if not for my grade 11 and 12 maths teacher. He really encouraged me to pursue maths and made every one of his classes enjoyable for those two years.

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

In five years time I see myself having finished my honours and working for a few years. In ten years time I see myself having established a career, perhaps with a PhD.

Any other feedback/comments you would like to provide on the CHOOSEMATHS grant or AMSI BioInfoSummer 2017?

BioInfoSummer was a great experience. I really enjoyed the speakers, and most of them provided enough foundation information for the biological topics that I was able to understand them, even coming from a maths and stats background.