Melissa’s Maths Journey

By Melissa Scott, La Trobe University

To me, the decision to do postgraduate study in biostatistics was a long, unnoticed process. It began in the second semester of my first year. I had returned to University, hell-bent on study genetics and make an impact in cancer research, when in my first lecture towards this goal, my lecturer stood in front of the whole class and professed, “If you’re here because you don’t want to do math, you’re not going to do well”. He then went on to elaborate that genetics research had advanced to a point where basic statistics knowledge was a given and commonly, complex analysis was required in order to produce significant studies. Begrudgingly, I took my lecturers advice and made a late enrolment into a first year statistics subject. The subject was focused on how statistics can be related to problems in life sciences, and to my surprise, I loved every minute of it! For the first time in my education, I was given tangible evidence math was used to solve real-life problems that interested me – not just how to determine how tall a tree is if it casts a shadow x meters long.

Following my new found interest, I began enrolling in more statistics subjects at second-year level and eventually I had to make the decision, did I want to major in genetics or statistics? By the end of my second-year, the decision was a no-brainer, Statistics!

Seeing how statisticians can turn a seemingly confusing mass of numbers into something profound and meaningful really hit it home for me. They are todays modern magicians, speaking a language unheard of and incomprehensible to the average ear. They maintain the ability to make sense of the ever increasing data being produced by todays society and translate it, so that it can be used for good, whether that be redirecting resources, determining the cause of disease, implementing useful policies or evaluating the efficacy of new drugs. It truly is a side of math that be used in any industry and is an invaluable skill set to hold and I’m excited to see where my new path takes me.

Melissa Scott was one of the recipients of a 2016/17 AMSI Vacation Research Scholarship.

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