In AMSI scholarship recipient
AMSI scholarship recipient profile: Liam Timms

Liam Timms

The University of Queensland

Liam Timmsreceived a Bachelor’s Degree in Mathematics in 2021, majoring in Applied Mathematics. He started the degree with the goal of pure analysis, but as he took more and more applied and computational subjects my goal shifted to applied maths. Finally, He set his sights on operations research and have nearly finished a paper in that area. He started an honours degree immediately after finishing his Bachelor’s degree, with the eventual goal of completing a PhD. In his spare time, He hasa blue belt in kung fu, he reads, and he loves long-distance running.

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 applied mathematics with a focus on two areas: mathematical ecology and operations research. Mathematical ecology is the study of how humans, plants, and animals interact using maths and computer science. For example, my honours project is looking at how we can help elephant populations survive the threat of poaching. Operations research is the science of decision marking. It answers questions like “what’s the best way to schedule surgeries?” or “what’s the optimal layout for packing supplies in a space shuttle?”.

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

I’ve always loved mathematics. It was my favourite class in school, all the way back to Grade 4. There was no doubt in my mind that I wanted a maths degree, and that drove me through high school and then university. My earliest inspiration was my Grade 5 teacher, Mr Smith. He saw how much I loved the subject and he pushed me to excel. He even asked me to help out other students who were struggling, which really cemented my understanding. My inspirations have always been the brilliant and passionate maths teachers and lecturers.

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?

Receiving the scholarship meant I could actually attend the Summer School. Without it, I could not have participated in the program or the extras, and I possibly would not have met all of the like-minded students there.

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 best part of the Summer School was the atmosphere created by dozens of like-minded and energetic students who were passionate about maths and learning. Five classes a week was made much more enjoyable by the students and the lecturers. It was very easy to not only appreciate the content but also to have fun! Having the opportunity to present my research, get feedback, and make new connections from it was invaluable.

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?

During my bachelor’s degree, it seemed like every course started with the lecturer telling us how much maths skills were in demand, and how many jobs were available to us. However, few of them ever explained exactly what those opportunities were. The Careers Day was a great opportunity to hear about some paths to working in industry, and about the types of work available. My plan is to go into industry after I complete a 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 challenge was the lack of large, in person social and networking opportunities. However, the virtual nature of the School gave me a chance to engage with students from my own university, people I might never have met otherwise. Since the lectures and tutorials were online, we were able to watch them together and help each other.

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

The Summer School is a very intense four-week program, and you should be prepared for that. However, don’t forget to enjoy this unique experience and have fun! The speed and intensity of the program make the lectures and interactions feel fast-paced and exciting. If you’re prepared to give the program 100%, and you want to look at a subject that an undergraduate degree might never offer, then you should definitely apply.

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

I pursue a PhD in operations research and then work in industry. My dream is to do logistics for a humanitarian organisation like UNHCR or Doctors Without Borders. I want to take my knowledge and use it to help either people or the environment (ideally both). Mathematics and computer skills are in very high demand, and I intend to use them to help tackle the biggest problems we face.