Profiles

Although mathematics and statistics may traditionally be seen as a male-dominated field – it’s for everybody. We aim to inspire girls to study and pursue active careers in mathematics.

Students

Charles Gray (PhD Theoretical Statistics)

Don't listen to anyone who says - and they will - you can't do it. Mathematics and programming are learnt skills, there is no innate maths gene. Statistically, girls have been shown to be, if anything, better at mathematics than boys. Girls are also systematically discouraged from pursuing hard sciences.

What are you currently studying?

I'm in the middle of a PhD in theoretical statistics. My research focus is meta-analysis, which is a process by which we combine the results of many studies into one conclusion. I look at the mathematics of how that is done.

Why did you chose to study Mathematics at La Trobe?

My previous studies were at a large, major university, where it felt like the only priority of the staff was their research profile. As a student, I felt I was a chore and an obstacle in their path, something to dispense with as quickly as possible. I wanted to study at an institution that valued the craft of pedagogy. La Trobe had the highest student satisfaction for mathematics and the best reputation for teaching quality in mathematics.

Where would you like to be in the future?

I'm currently doing research combined with some teaching. I would like to spend my time doing that for as long as possible.

How is La Trobe helping you achieve your career goals?

La Trobe's mathematics department certainly lived up to their reputation of high teaching standards. As this is my second take on a career, it's been a long time since I studied mathematics at high school. La Trobe helped me bridge the gap and supported me through my undergraduate. Through Homework Assistance Centres, blackboard tutorials, and the extraordinary staff whose doors are open most of the time, and you are encouraged to wander in and ask random mathematical questions.

Now, as a postgraduate, La Trobe has provided me with a wealth of mentors and opportunities. I was encouraged to become involved in the Statistical Society of Australia, which has been a wonderful way to connect with the broader community of statisticians. The mathematics department have been very supportive of my goals in academia, and have been providing me with a variety of experience, from research to teaching.

Throughout your course so far, what was the most challenging obstacle you have come across and how did you overcome it?

By far the hardest obstacle for me was balancing work with study. Since this was my second time around, I was ineligible for government assistance, so I had to work while I studied to support myself. I'd been a piano teacher and accompanist for over ten years when I began my mathematics degree, so I continued to support myself freelancing during my studies. This made for a brutally demanding schedule, from a time-commitment perspective.

I would work most evenings, and all day Saturday. For the entirety of my undergraduate and honours, I was lucky to have one day off a month (and yes, that includes weekends). Sundays were the one day that was unpolluted with classes that I was taking or giving, so I would spend the whole day studying.

I wanted to make the sacrifice worth it, so I knew I had to get excellent grades. However, I also had a business to run. I coped with this by becoming a bit of a time-management techniques fanatic. I currently combine the pomodoro method with GTD in a bullet-journal.

The other big change was that I became an incorrigible morning person. Since I worked at night, it was fantasy to think I'd study after that. I had no choice but to get up very early, before 5am, to squeeze study in. Then I could attend classes during the day, drive through traffic to my music studio and teach through the evening.

Do you have any advice for females who are considering studying (Mathematics/ IT/ Engineering)?

If you're creative and like to think outside the box, then you might be very well suited to a career in mathematics. To solve new problems, you need creativity. Communication skills are paramount, too. If you can't communicate your awesome science, then no one will know about it or use it. Great scientists have to be great communicators.

I now listen to my inner self, and the question I ask myself all the time (especially when it's hard) is, "am I having fun?" The answer is invariably, "yes."

Rheanna Mainzer (PhD Statistics)

There will be challenges along the way but studying Mathematics and Statistics can be very rewarding. Work hard and work smart. Don’t be too hard on yourself if you make a mistake. Try to learn what you did wrong so that you can improve in the future. If you find a concept difficult to grasp, don’t give up. Sometimes it helps to take a break and return to the problem later with a clear mind. You can always ask a friend, teacher or mentor for help. Lastly, consider taking some classes that teach you how to program. Programming skills are very useful to have.

What are you currently studying?

I am currently studying my PhD in Statistics. Prior to this, I completed a Bachelor of Finance/Bachelor of Science (honours).

Why did you chose to study Mathematics at La Trobe?

From an early age I have learnt that, although maths can be quite challenging sometimes, solving a difficult problem is very rewarding. Because the rules of maths (such as order of operations) always stay the same, learning something new is usually just a matter of building on something you already know. When I started at La Trobe, I did not have any firm career goals. I knew that I liked working with numbers and wanted that to be part of my job. I chose to study maths because it was something that I enjoyed at high school and was not yet ready to give up.

Where would you like to be in the future?

After I complete my PhD, I would like to keep working on statistics research in either a university or a research organization. Ideally, I will be able to continue working on new and exciting projects, similar to my current work. I would also like my research to have a meaningful impact.

How is La Trobe helping you achieve your career goals?

In December 2016, La Trobe supported my attendance at the Australian Statistical Conference in Canberra. As well as presenting my research at this event, I met people working in all different areas of statistics around Australia. More recently, I attended a couple of free La Trobe workshops to expand my programming skills. The staff in the Department of Mathematics and Statistics are fantastic. They have provided valuable advice and guidance over the years. In addition, our department’s fortnightly seminars give me insight into current research done at other institutions.

Throughout your course so far, what was the most challenging obstacle you have come across and how did you overcome it?

I am often required to do calculations that are too complicated to do by hand, so a large part of my work involves writing code in a statistics package to do these calculations for me. During the first year of my PhD, I wrote a program that should have returned a probability (a number between 0 and 1). However, this program would return values greater than 1! It is easy to make errors when writing code or doing lengthy algebraic manipulations. This particular error stalled my progress for quite a while. I had to search through many pages of theory and lines of code to find it. Persistence and patience were key. Eventually I identified the mistake in the code and corrected it.

Laura Karantgis (PhD, Applied Mathematics)

Always seek out opportunities to gain more experience and get more involved in the mathematics community, never hesitate to seize an opportunity because you feel that you aren't good enough, and keep asking yourself "what would I do if I knew I couldn't fail

What are you currently studying?

PhD in Applied Mathematics.

Why did you chose to study Mathematics at La Trobe?

When I first came to La Trobe for an open day in 2009 I noticed that the Mathematics staff had a certain passion for the field and were very welcoming to the next generation of young Mathematicians. I then decided to continue with my postgraduate studies at La Trobe as I feel that it is the best place for me to get amazing research supervision from my PhD supervisor Professor Philip Broadbridge, as well as the opportunity to undertake work as a practice class demonstrator and guest lecturer.

Where would you like to be in the future?

I see myself using mathematics, statistics, and programming to work on multiple interesting projects that help to create positive change around the world.

How is La Trobe helping you achieve your career goals?

Thanks to La Trobe and my supervisor Professor Philip Broadbridge I have been able to gain invaluable experience undertaking interesting research in collaboration with the CSIRO, working as a practice class demonstrator and guest lecturer, and traveling nationally and internationally for research work and conferences.

Throughout your course so far, what was the most challenging obstacle you have come across and how did you overcome it?

The most challenging obstacle for me throughout my course has been my time commitment as I have multiple outside work commitments including a start-up business. Through this I have found it important to learn more on the topic of effective productivity and realise that some goals need to be sacrificed if they are not contributing to your most important goal.

Elisa Tancredi (Bachelor of Science)

Studying mathematics doesn’t mean you become a ‘mathematician’. What it does mean is that you walk away with quantitative and analytical skills.

What are you currently studying?

Bachelor of Science. Double major: Mathematics and Statistics.

Why did you choose to study mathematics and statistics at La Trobe?

Upon visiting the university before applying, the atmosphere felt very welcoming and as a result, I only applied for La Trobe and was successful.

I decided to return to university to basically finish a Physics degree that I had started 16 years earlier. My intention was to major in Physics but I discovered Mathematics and Statistics along the way. The flexibility of the Bachelor of Science allowed me to change my majors very easily.

Where would you like to be in the future?

I would eventually like to pursue post graduate study in Mathematics Education. At the moment I am single-handedly raising three young girls and so for the short term, I wish to seek employment preferably in a university setting to remain aligned with my future goals.

How is La Trobe helping you achieve your career goals?

I have attended the Career Development Centre on several occasions for assistance with writing my resume and applying for jobs on campus.

I was also encouraged by staff members from the Mathematics department to apply for the AMSI (Australian Mathematical Sciences Institute) summer scholarship. I was successful in my application and gained valuable research experience as a result.

I have also had employment opportunities within the university, giving me work experience in education. At the moment I am a Peer Learning Advisor and assist fellow students in a variety of study issues. In the past, I have worked in the Mathematics department running first year Statistics computer classes and help sessions.

Throughout your course so far, what has been the most challenging obstacle you have come across and how did you overcome it?

The most challenging aspect of my study experience has been the fact that I am in a predominantly male field, making it difficult to find other mature age female students that understand the challenges that I face juggling studies with motherhood. I have not found a way to overcome this challenge but have learnt to accept it.

Nishika Kapuruge (PhD, Statistics)

The Department of Mathematics and Statistics at Latrobe University always maintain a friendly secured environment for female students and it is an ideal destination for succeeding your educational goals.

What are you currently studying?

Currently I am studying PhD in Statistics in the Department of Mathematics and Statistics, Latrobe University.

Why did you chose to study Statistics at La Trobe?

The research that I investigated in my PhD in Statistics at La Trobe is perfectly aligned to make my career plans a reality one day. The university possesses a strong dynamic environment for the career development and also we can gain so much from working together in the research field with the world renowned professionals and expertise at La Trobe University. Further, Latrobe University has a multicultural background with students from numerous countries all over the world, making a very dynamic and live environment for all the students.

Where would you like to be in the future?

I would prioritize in applying statistical methods to real-life data stepping out from theoretical research to solve critical issues that threat the wellbeing of human beings. I would love to join the research organizations in the country engaging actively on statistical sectors. I also consider teaching as a profession which creates other professionals and a way of disseminating our knowledge to future generations. Therefore, I would also be very fond of teaching Statistics at university level. I always believe both teaching and research skills are essential to be a good academic professional. In the long term, teaching and research experience gained will groom me while contributing to the development of the statistics field in the world.

How is La Trobe helping you achieve your career goals?

The training that I receive while pursuing a graduate study at La Trobe University is a solid platform to enhance my research skills in the desired areas to be an outstanding professional in the statistics field one day. The university is equipped with all the facilities that I require to excel in my research activities. Further, the academic professionals are very helpful to guide me towards the aims and objectives of my research successfully. La Trobe University functions with a very good academic plan which is well organized and easy to follow. I can highly recommend La Trobe University for any international student since the university also cares about and guides international students appropriately with La Trobe International.

Throughout your course so far, what was the most challenging obstacle you have come across and how did you overcome it?

I have just started my PhD studies and so far it is so good and I manage my work successfully. But I think time management is the most critical problem when doing your graduate studies. A proper work plan is essential to manage and utilize this limited time fruitfully. Punctuality is a key quality that each student should cultivate and I always felt it is the key thing for good time management. I am determined to utilize the limited time available for me to complete the program successfully by working according to an appropriate work plan and being punctual.

Chandima Arachchige (PhD in Statistics)

Never consider your gender as an obstacle to become an expert in the field of Statistics and never be afraid to take the challenges. Always keep the self-confidence and that will help you to compete with any one.

What are you currently studying?

Currently, I’m reading for a PhD in statistics at Latrobe University.

Why did you choose to study Statistics at La Trobe?

I have successfully completed my graduate studies in Sri Lanka, at the Department of Statistics, Faculty of Science, and University of Colombo by acquiring a Bachelor of Science (Hons) degree in Statistics with a first class in 2013. After completion of the degree, I received an opportunity to join the academic staff of the Department of Statistics, University of Colombo, Sri Lanka as an Assistant Lecturer. This academic background motivated me to do higher studies.  I decided to start my higher studies at Melbourne in Australia due to the high quality of the university education system and lifestyle.

The main reason I chose Latrobe University to start my PhD was the excellent reputation among the senior academic staff. When I searched universities to apply for my PhD, most of the senior academic staff members in our department suggested Latrobe University as the best University to do a PhD due to academic and research excellence. Also, there were some senior lectures in our department who have successfully completed their PhD at Latrobe.

Nevertheless, I got to know that La Trobe University is one of Australia’s leading research and teaching universities and it has an international reputation for academic excellence and innovation. Therefore, I decided to pursue my career with a PhD in Statistics at La Trobe University to acquire a high-level international profile.

Where would you like to be in the future?

After completion of my PhD in Australia, I hope to serve my country by joining as a Senior Lecturer in Statistics at one of the Sri Lankan Universities as I always wanted to do this. My career objective is to become an active academic University staff member in Sri Lanka with a passion for learning new concepts, theories and principles to pursue carrier with growing globalization. I hope to utilize and extend my academic curriculum on statistical analysis, management, conceptual skills and other analytical skills by gaining work experience as a lecturer by continuously serving to the Sri Lankan universities with a great effort. Furthermore, I would like to be a Head of Department in one of Sri Lankan Universities as my long-term expectation.

How is La Trobe helping you achieve your career goals?

La Trobe University is a place where multinational students do their studies together. The friendly environment and the peaceful and relaxed life style helps me to enhance my studies without any tension. All the academic and administrative staff members in our department are very supportive for all the students. As a PhD student, I receive excellent supervision and guidance for every step of my research study from my supervisor. In addition to that, the series of seminars which are organized by our department and helps to improve my mathematical and statistical knowledge in a wide range and also provides opportunities to develop my network and to become more sociable. In addition to that, the resources which we have such as library facilities, online help and the remote access to our computers from any destination helps me to improve the quality of my studies. Overall, I believe that La Trobe is the best place to achieve my career goals and to become a successful women in the future.

Throughout your course so far, what was the most challenging obstacle you have come across and how did you overcome it?

Throughout my PhD research study so far, the most challenging obstacle was the how to improve my knowledge in R programming. After first few days of starting my first research under my PhD, I realized that I’m weak in programming of the R statistical software. However, it was the main software which I had to use for my research. As the first step to overcome this obstacle, I discussed my weakness of programming in R with my supervisor. My supervisor is a very supportive person and as usual, he provided me with a valuable amount of direction to improve programming knowledge in R. He motivated me to follow the guidelines given in R help and hand books relevant to each R package. In addition to that, I decided to get more help online. I read articles which are given in different websites to improve the ability of cording in R. Finally, I could improve my programming knowledge in R up to certain level which my supervisor could satisfy.

Malathi Imiyage Dona (PhD in Statistics)

When studying mathematics you will always find challenges, obstacles on your way and you will enjoy the excitement, satisfaction from solving problems and overcoming challenges.

What are you currently studying?

PhD in Statistics

Why did you chose to study Statistics at La Trobe?

La Trobe University is one Australia’s leading research and teaching universities and has an international reputation for academic excellence and innovation. Therefore, I decided to pursue my career with a PhD in Statistics at La Trobe University in order to acquire a high-level international profile.

Where would you like to be in the future?

I would like to obtain a position in a well-established research institute where my educational background and interpersonal skills can be applied to make a positive contribution towards the organization and seek the opportunity to become a high caliber professional in the field of Statistics.

How is La Trobe helping you achieve your career goals?

Having a La Trobe scholarship that pays for my education and living expenses is actually a great support for my studies. By reducing financial concerns, it allows more time for studying and learning, which helps me to acquire my research goals. Furthermore, the peaceful and relaxed working environment helps me to enhance my studies without any tension. I believe the international reputation and the quality of the La Trobe degree will help me to find a better job after my studies.

Throughout your course so far, what was the most challenging obstacle you have come across and how did you overcome it?

Obstacles are common parts of life that can certainly cause feelings of depression and make people give up on goals that they want to achieve. One major obstacle that I found during my studies is time management. Time management is all about focus and investing your time where it matters. I always try to work according to a prepared timetable and try not to postpone works for the next day. I finish work before the deadlines and left a bit of time to revise it can also reduce the worry. Moreover, I always dedicate some time to spend with my family and to focus on my health and wellbeing.

Alumni

Staff

Professor Birgit Loch (Chair, Teaching and Learning, SHE College)

If you are good at maths or stats and enjoy it, including the theory behind both, then don’t let anyone talk you out of studying it. Girls are as good in maths and stats as boys. In fact, when I was an undergraduate student, there were four of us, all female, and we finished our degrees ahead of the men. I have always followed what I’m passionate about, and it’s worked out really well and you should do the same. However, I never dreamed that I would become a University Professor, but my example shows that female mathematicians can get there.

What lead you to the field of Maths/Stats?

I’ve always loved maths, for as long as I can think back. My mum remembers telling her friends that I would become a mathematician, back when I was little, as I would play with Legos and wooden building blocks for hours. I often do the opposite of what I’m told – so when my maths teacher at school suggested I shouldn’t study mathematics at uni, I decided he was wrong and was more determined than ever to get started. I’ve never looked back.

Where were you working before you came to La Trobe?

Directly before joining La Trobe in early 2017 I was working in the Maths Department at Swinburne University. I was first the Director of the Maths and Stats Help Centre, and then the Academic Director Digital Learning and Technologies in the faculty. Before that, from 2005-2010, I worked at the University of Southern Queensland in the Department of Mathematics and Computing. This is where I learnt how to teach online, and where I really got started exploring tablet technologies for online teaching as I thought I was rather bad at explaining maths on the phone to students located somewhere far away from the campus. Before that, in 2004-2005, I worked at the University of Queensland in the Department of Mathematics where I did my PhD. And before that I was an undergraduate student at the University of Essen in Germany until 1999.

What research are you undertaking?

My research interests have changed over the years. I worked on the numerical solution of partial differential equations (my German Master Thesis topic) and then moved to surface fitting to represent the surfaces of leaves (my PhD topic at UQ). Around ten years ago I decided I would concentrate on mathematics education research to improve learning and teaching at university level. I’ve always been passionate about teaching, had innovative ideas on how to improve my maths teaching particularly to online students, I love playing with technology, and I seemed to be rather successful getting funding for my projects and having my work published so this came a bit natural. At the moment, I’m writing up a few papers on a project where higher-year students produced videos to explain the relevance of first year mathematics to engineering students. If you get the relevance of what you are studying, you are more likely to put more effort into it, and maths is so important in engineering. I’m also writing about successful approaches to implementing blended learning in mathematics teaching, and the design of instructional screencasts from which you can learn maths, stats and physics concepts. And another project with a PhD student is investigating the “hidden cohort” of students repeating a subject – everyone knows they exist because they have already failed at least once, but nothing is usually done to support these students beyond what is available to all students. We want to change this by demonstrating that there is an issue.

[Nothing on teaching yet – that’ll start in S2 and I haven’t checked yet what I’m teaching]

What’s your current role at La Trobe and what’s your favourite part about your job?

I’m the Chair, Teaching and Learning in the College of SHE. So technically, I’m appointed in the College, but I’m located with the mathematicians and I teach maths. In summary, my job is to lead projects that improve learning and teaching in the College, get lecturers involved in the scholarship of learning and teaching, and to support innovation in teaching and create a culture of excellence in teaching.

I have two favourite parts. The first is working with people. I love discussing ideas on how to improve teaching, on student support, and on innovations and to then see how these ideas are taken up by others who change their teaching. It’s very rewarding to see something that works in your own teaching taken up elsewhere. I also enjoy the groundwork to enable changes to teaching: improving systems, convincing people that change can be good, but also providing staff development.

The second is playing with technologies for teaching and finding out how best to use them. This has followed me since my first academic appointment as an Associate Lecturer at UQ. I work with tablet technology, wireless presentation, screen casting technology, anything that contributes to effective blended learning, and there are a few cutting edge technologies I want to look at soon so watch this space. As I don’t have a large teaching load, I rely on getting others to try our ideas in their teaching.

Dr Xia Li (Statistics Consultant)

Statisticians have a distinct and essential role to play in this new world of Big Data. To grasp this opportunity, I would like to encourage female students to take more statistics courses and there is no doubt that you will like them. Enjoy and have fun with statistics!

What lead you to the field of statistics?

Statistics is very interesting and useful for me. Statistics can be used to answer some very important scientific, social and commercial questions in biology, medicine, the social sciences, engineering, physics and economics using the real data.

Where were you working before you came to La Trobe?

I have been working in China and Ireland in the previous years. From 2015.09 to 2016.09, I was working as a Statistics Research Fellow in Graduate Entry Medical School, University of Limerick, Ireland, from 2015.05 to 2015.06, Senior Statistics Post-Doctoral Researcher, Epidemiology and Public Health Department, University College Cork, Cork, Ireland, and from 2010.08 to 2013.04, I was a Statistics Lecture in School of Public Health, Capital Medical University, Beijing, China.

What role are you undertaking at La Trobe and what research are you undertaking?

I am now a University Statistics Consultant in La Trobe, providing statistical advice about research methods, experimental design and data analysis for projects.

What’s your favourite part about your job?

I like to use or develop different statistics methodologies coping with different dataset. The most exciting moment is when I get some useful results from the data- that feeling is like I reveal the hidden treasures inside those data.

Dr Katherine Seaton (Associate Professor)

It’s only in some societies that maths is male-dominated; in other countries it is much more equal (like France, Italy, Eastern Europe). People are just people, so never believe that you can’t do it.

What lead you to the field of mathematics?

When I first went to university, I thought that I wanted to be a chemist. It turned out that what I liked most about chemistry was the calculations, and what I missed most in my course was the maths and physics. That’s when I finally decided that mathematics and physics would be what I studied.

Where were you working before you came to La Trobe?

I have been at La Trobe for more than 20 years. Prior to that, I was post-doc fellow doing research in mathematical physics in Amsterdam, after I had completed my PhD in Australia.

What role are you currently undertaking at La Trobe and what research are you undertaking?

I am currently an associate professor in Mathematics. My original research area is Mathematical Physics but more recently, I have also published collaboratively in Electronic Engineering, Statistics for medical research, Maths education and Mathematics and the arts.

What’s your favourite part about your job?

One thing I really enjoy doing in my job is outreach work, taking mathematical ideas to audiences like school children and even a public audience recently at the House of Mirrors in Bendigo. Every day, I enjoy explaining maths to students and finding better ways to find out what they’re learning.