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AMSI scholarship recipient profile:Katie Buchhorn

Katie Buchhorn

Queensland University of Technology

Katie is currently undertaking her PhD at QUT, researching in the field of Bayesian statistics. Her work focuses on water quality in river networks, and how we can best collect these data using sensors; an optimisation called adaptive design. She studied theoretical mathematics as an undergraduate and then turned to the financial industry for three years before undertaking her doctorate. In 2021, she published her book “Wondrous Worlds: The Extraordinary Adventures of a Curious Mathematician” in the hopes to demystify career opportunities within the mathematical sciences. She also delivered a TEDx talk on “How Mathematics Helps Humankind”. Katie hopes to inspire the next generation of thinkers into STEM, one story at a time.

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

I’m studying in the field of Bayesian statistics, which helps us better understand probability and randomness in our world. Optimal design offers a framework for how best to collect data in complex systems – this could be environmental systems (e.g. river network systems), or our own body (e.g. pharmacokinetics).

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

I always loved maths at school, but I had to learn that had way (with a couple of degree changes) that mathematics was the challenge I wanted in my life. I’m inspired now by interesting applications in the environment, health, etc.

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?

It was very helpful, although covid restrictions made it difficult to meet others this year.

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 course content was extremely valuable and accessible. It was of a very high quality, and my classmates were all engaged, which made the learning experience worthwhile.

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 am aware of the opportunities for mathematical science graduates, but also acknowledge that the future of work is always changing! Yes, I would consider working with industry, especially those with research labs. The AMSI summer school helped me with some concepts in my PhD.

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?

The biggest positive was that when some life events happened, and I need to be flexible, I could take the courses online while travelling interstate. The challenge was with the digital barriers in really connecting and socialising with the other students.

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

Yes! It’s a great opportunity that has the potential to propel your learning forward in a well structured way.

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

I see myself working in a research lab, right in that sweet spot between research and industry. I want to work on methodology to better our understanding of real-world problems.

Any other comments you would like to provide?

I wanted to thank the organisers and teachers – thank you for showing compassion, understanding and support.