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By Amy Stringfellow, Queensland University of Technology

When I left school, I rather liked maths. It had beautiful logic, symmetry and best of all, there was one logical solution for any problem you were given. So after leaving school, I entered the wider world of study at university, and decided to study maths. However, even in this stage I had the impression maths, with the exception of statistics, is rarely useful and in general, it is more of an art form.

Then I started studying at university, in particular the Queensland University of Technology (QUT). QUT’s mathematics degree has three majors to choose from, so, since I loved the more analytically rich maths rather than statistics, I ended up choosing the Applied and Computational Mathematics major. This major then introduced me to: a wide range of maths applications, different types of maths models; and also how computers are an integral part of solving quite difficult maths problems.

I discovered models could be made to mimic things from disease spread to how traffic flows; from bore water height to cancer; from people’s general movement and actions to machinery. We even have maths models that mimic and predict the weather.

In one way, all the above situations can be thought of as simply being a system of interactions. Maths then allows us to describe these interactions, then mimic them in a way that is useful for forming a greater understanding of the system and then potentially solving a problem or using the system, such as a weather model, to better life and the way we do things.

The use of these maths models are becoming increasingly important now as we are becoming an information dense and reliant society. If information is considered in association with what it interacts with, then benefits can be made in a multitude of different ways depending on the system being modelled. A few benefits of models can be: making systems more efficient, formulating the future spread of cancer to prevent it, better management of disease spread or even having a more accurate weather report.

These are some of the large, impressive applications of maths modelling. Over this summer I worked on a modelling droplets as the roll down a vertical surface. Even this very specific model (and very everyday process) has applications: a study previously conducted at QUT about droplet movement was funded by an agricultural company that hoped to improve the amount of their products that stick to the leaves where they are needed, rather than roll off, and where their product aggregates. This would allow for greater efficiency of their product and help the environment.

Now, I’m very excited to be studying maths particularly due to the range of work opportunities and types of maths out there. Although no one typically employs a mathematician, our world needs a lot of meteorologists, analysts and data scientists (and the list goes on) to keep our information rich society improving.


Amy Stringfellow was one of the recipients of a 2015/16 AMSI Vacation Research Scholarship.