In CHOOSEMATHS grant winner profiles
CHOOSEMATHS Grant recipient profile: Marina Masioti

Marina Masioti

La Trobe University

Marina is at the end of her first year of a PhD in Statistics. She was born and raised in Greece but has lived in Melbourne for the past 6 years. Marina obtained her Bachelor of Science and Honours degree at La Trobe University, Melbourne. Her PhD is a continuation and extension of her Honours Thesis, on improving dimension reduction methods, more specifically the Principal Hessian Directions(pHd) methodology. This is achieved via the use of transformations in combination with the Influence Function (Hampel (1974)). Marina’s work aims to find an improved estimate of the effective dimension reduction direction when the default pHd method fails to do so. In the future her research will extend to improving other methods in order to visualise the relationship between the response and explanatory variables in big data.

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

My topic in statistics has to do with big data. By big data we are usually referring to large data sets that have a lot of explanatory variables that the common traditional methods of statistical analysis cannot deal with. My work is about Dimension Reduction which is a method to deal with the problems coming from big data sets. Dimension reduction methods help analyse and visualise big data in lower dimensions which make it a necessary tool for many different areas of interest since the amount of data available continues to grow. In my studies I have learned how to improve the dimension reduction methods, using statistical tools such as transformations and the influence function.

You attended AMSI BioInfoSummer, what drew you to this event? What was the most valuable part of AMSI BioInfoSummer for you in terms of furthering your career in mathematical sciences?

I find biology very interesting and I wanted to learn about the statistical tools used to perform analyses in the field of bioinformatics. The entire event was a valuable experience. It gave me many possibilities of how I could continue my career in the mathematical sciences and also motivated me to become a better researcher.

Did this event lead to any new projects, collaborations? What were some outcomes in terms of your work?

The event led to many contacts that could further lead to collaborations or projects in the future. There were no outcomes, however, I would be interested to see if my research in dimension reduction could help in this area and provide improved results.

You received a CHOOSEMATHS Grant to assist your attendance at AMSI BioInfoSummer. How important was this in terms of your ability to attend and fully participate in the sessions throughout the week? How did you hear about the grant?

I learnt about the grant from the AMSI BioInfoSummer website. Receiving the grant was important for me as it allowed me to fully participate in the sessions and workshops.

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 very important for women in sciences because we can easily be discouraged and undermined and forget how strong we can be. We can see lately that a lot more women have access to networking opportunities and further training and job openings which clearly shows the impact of such initiatives.

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

This experience has motivated me to broaden my maths, stats and programming skills further so I will be able to better understand a wider range of areas. This will help me prepare for a future career in the mathematical sciences.

The CHOOSEMATHS Grants are part of a broader program being delivered by AMSI Schools with support from the BHP Foundation 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?

For me the biggest challenge with mathematics in Australia is that not enough attention is paid to this subject in school. In many cases, students are not inspired to be interested in maths and often feel that they will never need maths skills. In some cases they just learn how to do things using calculators which is sad for students that have the potential but not the right guidance.

Did you always want to pursue a career in maths? Were you encouraged to study these subjects at school?

When I was in year 12 I originally wanted to pursue physics and was slightly discouraged. However, my maths tutor encouraged me to do maths. I always liked the science subjects and could follow them easily. I ended up going to Speech therapy but that was before I came to Australia (I grew up overseas). When I moved here I started over and chose to do maths and stats which I am still enjoying.

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

I don’t really know were my career will take me, I am currently focusing on my PhD and trying to extend my knowledge and skills. Since I am in the end of my first year I believe there is a lot more to experience and learn until I decide what path I want to follow in the mathematical sciences.

Did you learn about new career options available to you that you were not aware of prior to attending AMSI BioInfoSummer?

I definitely learnt a lot of new career paths that are available. There is a diversity of options in Bioinformatics alone.

If a peer asked you if they should attend AMSI BioInfoSummer, how would you describe the conference to them?

I would highly recommend they attend AMSI BioInfoSummer or AMSI Summer/Winter School. The experience of the conference was very rewarding. It can offer new opportunities, great contacts, lead you to a new path that you weren’t aware of and extend your knowledge and skills. You are also able to see what tools other researchers are using and how they have improved them or which tools are better and why. It further familiarises you with the environment which is helpful since you will be giving talks soon.

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

Thank you for AMSI BioInfoSummer 2018! It was great!