In AMSI scholarship recipient

Riya Aggarwal

University of Newcastle

I am a research scholar in Mathematical Sciences at the University of Newcastle working on Neutron Transmission Strain Tomography using the Finite Element approach. Mainly focusing on producing high-resolution reconstruction images of strain inside solid materials. I received my bachelor’s in Mathematics from Delhi University, India. Did Masters in Applied Mathematics from the South Asian University, India where I was working on “Biharmonic Equation and its Geometric Designing”. On the side, I am also working on developing deep neural network algorithms to solve differential equation

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 an applied mathematics project, which is very well connected to industrial applications and computational mathematics. My current PhD project is to apply finite element methods to reconstruct elastic strain from neutron transmission tomography.

When X-rays fails to penetrate a few materials, neutrons can reveal its structure properties very easily and non-destructively. A number of techniques and applications in neutron imaging that exploit wavelength resolved measurements have developed recently. One of such techniques, known as energy resolved neutron imaging, receives ample attention because of its capability to not only visualise but to also quantify the physical attributes with spatial resolution.

You received a CHOOSEMATHS Grant to assist your attendance at AMSI Winter School 2019. How important was this in terms of your ability to attend and fully participate in the sessions throughout the program?

I am thankful to the AMSI team for providing me with the funds to attend this wonderfully organised winter school. It was an excellent opportunity for me to learn more about mathematics and to get some new ideas. It was not very easy for me to attend this school without the provided funds.

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?

Being a Female Scientist is not an easy task. Today, most scientists/researchers are isolated, and for many reasons, such as getting poor experiences, humiliated or judged; females are not able to prove their abilities. Initiatives for gender equity have lately helped enhance this, but more work needs. Programs such as CHOOSEMATHS Grants not only encourage women researchers to participate in networking but also has a positive outside effect on society.

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

It influenced me to try some new techniques learned in the lectures to my algorithm. Not sure if it will work better or not, but good to know about new approaches.

What was the most valuable part of AMSI Winter School 2019 for you in terms of furthering your career in mathematical sciences?

Most valuable part for me was how beautifully they created a bridge between mathematics and industry.

A panel session on the APR Intern program was included on the first day of the program. One of the aims of the program is to maximise employability and help prepare research graduates to drive industry/private sector research. Are you hoping to work with industry? How important is this experience for researchers? Particularly in terms of offering career flexibility for women?

APR Intern is an excellent opportunity for someone who is planning to work with the industry after PhD/Postdoc. I am one of them. The primary purpose of building mathematics is to help the environment in some or the other sense, and I think the industry is the bridge between them.

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?

The biggest challenge, which we are facing even now, is finding good mathematics teachers. Teachers are always the building block for any future. Unfortunately, we are lacking with good thinkers and motivates for young students.

Did you always want to pursue a career in maths? Were you encouraged to study these subjects at school? Do any particular mentors come to mind? Any outstanding teachers?

Well, mathematics was never the first priority for me when I started thinking about my career. However, later on, after my bachelors, I started getting interested in mathematics and then masters changed my whole perspective after learning the application of mathematics in the real world. My master’s supervisor supported me and encouraged me a lot.

Where do you see yourself in five, ten years’ time?

It is hard for me to say this from now. However, I will be continuing learning mathematics in some sense (Academics/Industry).

Any other feedback/comments you would like to provide on the CHOOSEMATHS grant or AMSI Winter School 2019?

It was a wonderful experience being there.

What advice would you give to a student who is considering taking up Winter School in 2020? Should they apply and why?

Excellent opportunity to meet people, learn and make networks.

What advice would you give to a student who is preparing/packing for their first Winter School program at The University of Queensland? What can they expect? What would you do differently if you participated in the program again?

Try to talk to other participants and lecturers as much as you can and discuss what they are working in. Sometimes it gives a broad idea, or maybe you can find someone from a similar area like yours.