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AMSI scholarship recipient profile:Dilishiya Kalpani De Silva

Dilishiya Kalpani De Silva

Queensland University of Technology

Dilishiya Kalpani De Silva completed her bachelor’s degree in Statistics and Operations Research with first-class honours at the University of Peradeniya, Sri Lanka. Currently, she is a third-year PhD student at QUT, working on the project titled “New Methods in Bayesian Design for Monitoring Submerged Shoals off the coast of Western Australia”. This project collaborates with the Australian Institute of Marine Science (AIMS). She is also a member of QUT’s Bayesian research and applications group.

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 working on a project that applies Bayesian experimental designs to develop a monitoring program for submerged shoals off the coast of Western Australia. This requires developing a statistical model to explain coral health within a given shoal and new algorithms to optimise transect placement within a shoal. By using a utility function to quantify the monitoring objectives, Optimal Bayesian designs can be found by maximising the expected utility over the space of all possible designs.

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

I was always interested in mathematics and problem-solving and always had good grades in Mathematics. Therefore, I chose the Mathematics stream for my advanced levels and then got university admission because of my grades in the Advanced Level Examination. Because of my interest in Mathematics and problem solving, I chose Statistics and Operations Research for my bachelor’s degree. Although I was fascinated by both subjects, I was more interested in Statistics. Once I’ve completed my bachelor’s degree, I conducted research using Bayesian statistics, leading me to pursue my higher studies in Bayesian Experimental Design.

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?

Given the covid situation, the course was conducted virtually. An expert in the field conducted the course. The knowledge I gained in advanced Bayesian Statistics is valuable for my current PhD research. The class was interactive, and I enjoyed both lectures and the lab work, which used r programming.

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?

Although I had a basic knowledge of Bayesian statistics, the content covered in this course is advanced and well organised. The lecturer was outstanding in reasoning; therefore, this course significantly improved my ability to derive Bayesian equations with much confidence. Because of this, my PhD work is much clearer and easier than before. The motivation I’ve got through my classmates’ work and the lecturer in charge is also important.

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?

I’ve previously participated in similar programs conducted by the ARC Centre of Excellence for Mathematical and Statistical Frontiers (ACEMS). The programs conducted during summer school improved the awareness I gained through previous programs. I am also delighted and thrilled by knowing that there is a range of job opportunities for mathematics graduates.

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?

It was convenient and safe given the covid situation in Australia. The lectures were recorded and uploaded to the site, which allowed us to go through it again.

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

It is definitely a good decision to follow the courses required for your PhD,  any research you are conducting, or some other work. I highly recommend AMSI Summer School as its courses help you gain or improve the required subject knowledge.

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

I want to continue in the academic field or work as a researcher. I would love to see myself as an expert in the Bayesian statistics field in five or ten years.

Any other comments you would like to provide?

The course was well organised and had excellent content. Also, the lecturer conducted the course well and explained the theoretical content so well.