In AMSI scholarship recipient
AMSI grant recipient profile: Shannon Walker

Shannon Walker

Queensland University of Technology

I am commencing my Master of Philosophy degree this year at QUT in Brisbane after just graduating with a Bachelor of Mathematics, where I majored in Applied and Computational Mathematics and Environmental Science. I moved to Brisbane from a regional area in Queensland after high school to pursue a career in maths and science. I’m hoping to bring my studies in maths and environmental science together in my research career. My supervisor approached me in my second year of my undergraduate degree and gave me the opportunity to work on a research project with him. Before this, I had never thought about getting into research, however after completing that project with my supervisor, I knew that this is what I want to do.

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

My studies use methods of parameter estimation to fit models to small, noisy data sets. I have previously worked on a project where we looked at the regrowth of coral in the Great Barrier Reef after some disturbance, such as a cyclone.  We used a very small data set, which was recorded over 10 years, and fit a model to the data to allow us to make predictions of future growth and the time it takes for coral populations to regrow after disturbance.

For my Masters degree, I will be using the same methods to analyse models of fluid flow in porous media. My research aims to fit models to small experimental data sets of fluid flow through soil columns using parameter profiling and prediction intervals.

How did you get into mathematics? Was there someone or something that inspired you into this field?

I was good at maths in high school, and I have always loved studying maths and environmental sciences, so I decided to pursue a career that would allow me to bring both of these fields of study together.

You received a Travel Grant to attend AMSI Summer School 2023. How important was this in terms of your ability to attend, fully participate in the program and meet others studying in similar fields?

Without the travel grant I would not have been able to attend the AMSI summer school in person. I would not have been able to afford flights and accommodation without the support from AMSI and my university. Attending the event in person was very beneficial and I believe I got a lot more out of the summer school than if I had only been participating online.  It was great meeting so many students at different stages in their research studies. In particular, talking to some of the PhD students was really great to get an idea of what I should expect if I decide to do a PhD. I definitely think having the summer school in-person for the first two weeks was beneficial.

What was the most valuable part of the program for you?

The most valuable part of the program for me was meeting people. It was great hearing about everybody’s different experiences with research degrees and meeting people that are so passionate about what they are studying. The course content itself was also excellent. I completed this course to provide me with essential knowledge to begin my master’s degree and it definitely gave me a head start for my studies.

In the long-term, what do you think are the benefits of having attended Summer School?

In the long term, AMSI summer school has encouraged me to communicate with other students and companies to enhance my career. Not only did I learn some very valuable skills from the course I completed, but I also learned a lot more about working in research compared to working in the industry from the careers events that AMSI held during the program.

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?

At the careers day, I learned about companies and career paths that I had not previously heard of. It was excellent walking around and talking to the different organisations that are looking for maths and science students. I am hoping to work for CSIRO after completing my masters, so it was great being able to talk to the representatives from CSIRO at the career’s day event.

What advice would you give to someone who is considering applying for Summer School in 2024? Should they apply and why?

Summer school was an excellent experience and a great opportunity to meet people at the same stage of their career as you. I would highly recommend completing the summer school program, and I am hoping to have the opportunity to complete the summer school again in 2024. I also recommend attending the program in person because the most rewarding part of the experience was networking and making friends.

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

In five years, I’m hoping to have finished a PhD and be working for CSIRO in fields of environmental science or agronomy.