“Even if you didn’t particularly love Mathematics during high school because you thought it was too abstract. Statistics will make you see the connection between theory and reality thanks to its versatile application to any field”
Anna Quaglieri is a PhD student at the Walter and Eliza Hall institute and completed her Masters Degree in Statistical Sciences in 2014 at the University of Bologna in Italy. Her career choice in Statistics was largely due to her curiosity and interest in Mathematics but she admits she never planned to find herself in her position.
Anna studied languages during high school and decided to spend part of her University studies abroad. She completed the final year of her Bachelor of Statistics degree at the University of Glasgow with a first class honours. This was supported by the Erasmus scholarship. This experience made an impact on her life and guided her decision to study in Australia. Due to scholarships granted by Bologna University she was able to complete the final year of her Masters in Statistics at the University of Melbourne.
With a growing interest in the application of statistics to medical research, Anna became involved in the Bioinformatics Division at the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute where she wrote her Masters Thesis under the supervision of Professor Melanie Bahlo. She also worked a part-time position as technical support for Professor Terry Speed that same year. After the completion of her masters studies she had the opportunity to work another year on the project started during her masters, leading to important novel discoveries in the MacTel eye disorder.
Despite the unpredictable Melbourne weather and missing out on grandma’s delicious meals, she is enjoying her career in Statistics and has recently started a PhD with Terry Speed.
What attracted you to your chosen field of study?
The choice of Statistics was driven by my indecision in the choice of a University course. Thanks to a few enthusiastic students that I met at the University of Bologna Open Day I realised for the first time that Statistics could be applied to every sort of field, from social to medical sciences, from business to marketing. This made me very excited about the future possibilities.
What tips would you give to high school students wanted to study your degree in the future?
Do it! Even if you didn’t particularly love Mathematics during high school because you thought it was too abstract. Statistics will make you see the connection between theory and reality thanks to its versatile application to any field.
Be aware of the possibilities that you have when you are asked to make choices and don’t be afraid to ask for advice.
What is it you love about science?
The part that I like and probably also fear the most is the unpredictability of doing research. You have to make hypotheses and assumptions when you decide to follow a path in your research even if you don’t know if you are going to find the results that you hope.
Did you do maths and science in high school?
I had passionate math female professors both at middle and high school. It was always emphasised to us to question what we were studying. We were never taught dry formulas. My high school teacher also used to tell us some stories and anecdote about the life and epoque of mathematicians whose theorems we were studying. That made the subject more real and human!
What can we do as individuals to help the next generation of women in STEMM?
We need to show to young students that a career in STEMM is possible for every gender and since we made it until here we should advertise that we are not any kind of superhero but simply dedicated and passionate people, sometimes also with plenty of doubts and fears!
It would be good if during high school there were more examples about the important role of STEMM subjects in society. Especially, examples should be formulated to attract the curiosity of both females and males, taking into account that male and female teenagers on average might have different interests and priorities.
[Image attribution: Czesia Markiewicz, Photographer, Communications and Marketing, The Walter and Eliza Hall Institute of Medical Research]