Mathematics has always been my passion, specifically I always had an interest in mathematical modelling. So I was excited to embark upon a research project and begin my career in this area of mathematics. Throughout this summer, I learnt a lot about the journey of research including it is okay to not get a final result and projects rarely end up finishing as ambitiously as desired. I also furthered my undergraduate study on mathematical modelling.

Permeable reactive barriers (PRB) are used to neutralise acidic groundwater but as time goes on they are subject to clogging from the bacteria and chemical precipitates in the groundwater. This greatly reduces their efficacy and eventually means the PRBs will require replacement. Understanding this clogging is important so the PRB can be replaced when and where it needs to. This will save money and resources associated with the installation of the PRB.

This problem has been explored before, and at the beginning of my project I believed the sky is the limit. I researched millions of different methods and ideas on modelling and threw everything at the wall waiting for it to stick. In assignments and tests there is always a correct answer and therefore, I believed there had to be a new way to solve this problem and I would be the one to find it. But of course, research is not like an assignment and there is no guaranteed answer.

Therefore, I turned to past work and past papers. It became my new goal to simply understand what had been done before, which was quite a step away from my initial goals. And after a lot of reading, researching and notetaking I could finally connect all the dots. From here, I was able to develop my own variation on previous research and was hoping to compare my solution and the final solution provided by past research.

However, I was not able to yield a final result due to difficulties arising with my final formulation. I was able to make some comparisons and found what I had done was a good basis and was showing promising results. The work of a researcher is never truly done, I have discovered!

I learnt a lot about my project and mathematical modelling but I learnt the most about research in general. I learnt that ambitious starts are important to gain momentum and motivation. There is no such thing as too much background research and learning from past work is the most beneficial steps to forming a unique solution. Finally, a research problem is open ended and may never be solved. But it is enough, for me, to be able to put a mark on it.

Lucy Dowdell
The University of Newcastle