CHOOSEMATHS Grant recipient profile: Xuemei Liu
University of South Australia
Xuemei Liu completed a Bachelor of Mathematical Sciences and a Bachelor of Applied Science (Honours) (Industrial and Applied Mathematics) at University of South Australia. She is currently a PhD student in the area of Industrial and Applied Mathematics at University of South Australia. She is interested in nonsmooth and nonconvex optimisations. Her research focuses on using the augmented Lagrangian framework to solve the nonsmooth and nonconvex problems. After completing her PhD degree, Xuemei hopes to work with industry to solve practical optimisation problems; or continue her research in the area of optimisation.
Can you give me a quick overview of the type of mathematics you are studying and its potential impacts for the broader community
Many practical optimisation problems are nonsmooth and nonconvex. These problems arise in areas such as finance, biology, chemistry, and industries. I am studying solving the nonsmooth and nonconvex problems using the augmented Lagrangian method. At the moment, I am studying a particular numerical method for solving the nonsmooth and nonconvex problems– the deflected subgradient (DSG) method. I am testing different algorithms in the sub-problem DSG method.
You attended AMSI Optimise, what drew you to this event? What was the most valuable part of AMSI Optimise for you in terms of furthering your career in mathematical sciences?
I wanted to learn from the talks which are related to my study, and I wanted to learn some skills and experiences of how to improve my research work from other mathematicians. The most valuable part for me is that I have learned a lot of past experiences in the research work during the PhDs of other mathematicians. These experiences have really encouraged and inspired me.
The key aim of Optimise is to strengthen research-industry collaboration within this key mathematics innovation space. How effective was this event in stimulating such discussion and opportunities?
By attending Optimise, I became aware of a number of interesting industry optimisation problems. The conference is very effective in encouraging me to collaborate with industry in the future and I hope to do so after completing my PhD.
How important was receiving a CHOOSEMATHS grant in terms of your ability to attend and fully participate in the AMSI Optimise 2018 sessions throughout the week?
Receiving assistance for travel and accommodation via a CHOOSEMATHS grant meant I was able to fully participate in all of the sessions throughout the week without worrying about finances.
How important are initiatives such as the CHOOSEMATHS Grants in terms of fostering the participation and achievement of women in mathematics, particularly in terms of access to networking opportunities and further training opportunities?
The first time I received a CHOOSEMATHS Grant was to attend AMSI Summer School. I was able to attend the summer school and study an optimisation related course and became so interested in further study and research in mathematics. It was very important in my decision to do my Honours and PhD degree in mathematics later on. I have also been encouraged from hearing about the experiences of other female mathematicians in the networking opportunities organised by the CHOOSEMATHS Grants.
In what ways has the experience impacted your maths studies? Has it influenced the direction of your research?
Yes. I had never planned to do a PhD in mathematics prior to attending AMSI Summer School which was made possible as a result of being awarded a CHOOSEMATHS Grants. I became very interested in optimisation and wanted to do further study in this area after that experience. Later on, I decided to do my PhD in this area.
The CHOOSEMATHS Grants are part of a broader program being delivered by AMSI Schools with support from BHP Billiton to turn the tide on Australia’s maths deficit and strengthen maths education and participation of women across the discipline. What do you see as the big challenges facing maths in Australia, particularly for women?
I have some experience teaching mathematics at high school. I have seen students greatly improve in mathematics as a result of the encouragement and training from maths teachers who have both the passion for and strong academic knowledge in mathematics. I think ensuring there are more maths teachers like this will help male and female students to improve in their maths studies.
Did you always want to pursue a career in maths? Were you encouraged to study these subjects at school?
I was not particularly interested in mathematics when I was at school. I preferred subjects such as science and history. Mathematics was more of a tool for me to do the science subjects. One of mathematics teachers, Mr Shan, encouraged me a lot in this subject. He told me that some mathematical skills are of certain capabilities and every capability can be obtained through training and practicing.
Where do you see yourself in five or ten years time?
I will either be working closely with industry partners to help them solve their practical problems, or doing optimisation research in academia.
Any other feedback/comments you would like to provide on the CHOOSEMATHS grant or AMSI Optimise?
I have received the CHOOSEMATHS grant a couple of times for different mathematical science events. It helped me to decide to do a PhD degree in mathematics. AMSI Optimise is a well organised event for mathematicians and PhD students to communicate their research. It is particularly valuable for PhD students in terms of learning the experiences of research from other mathematicians.