Student Profile: Kate Atwell

We all know what it is like to be in a queue. Standing in line for our morning coffee; pressing six digits on our touchscreen before finally getting to speak to someone; queues can be plain and simple or utterly complex. What we probably aren’t aware of while we’re flicking through a magazine in the supermarket checkout-queue is that there is a whole branch of mathematics devoted to studying the intricate nature of waiting.

Kate Atwell has recently embarked on an honours project at the University of Adelaide that looks at queuing theory. Specifically, Kate’s research is focussed on queues with several options or steps – like calling the bank. She is looking at how we enter and exit queues and what steps we need to take on the way.

‘When you call the bank, firstly an automated voice asks you to press a number related to your query, following this there may be several other responses you have to give before you finally get to speak to a member of the bank. My research looks at these added complications and how you move forward — one phase at a time — until you reach the end of the queue. In this case, the real person!’ Kate said.

Kate has travelled to most capital cities in Australia, but she will always call Adelaide home. For Kate, Adelaide is just right – not too busy, not too quiet. The other thing that Kate finds just right is mathematics.

‘Though always there, my interests in mathematics were spiked when I was taught by a particular teacher,’ Kate said, ‘This teacher, having previously completed a mathematics degree herself, had a passion for mathematics that was inspiring and motivating.’

Kate Attwell attended AMSI’s 2014 Summer School to ease the pressure of her honours year. She didn’t expect to be surrounded by so many people who share her pursuit of knowledge. Kate said that the second best thing about the summer was meeting other honours and PhD students from around the country studying mathematics. ‘You just know these people are in the field for the love of it, which isn’t always the case in other faculties,’ she said.

‘The best thing about AMSI’s Summer School — and other AMSI events — was that it gave me the opportunity to study a course that I would not have been able to at my own university. It also made me aware of a fascinating field of mathematical research that I would not have known about otherwise.’

So the next time you’re in a queue have a think about Kate and the high-end mathematics she uses to calculate how you wait, and where your choices take you.

  • The most enjoyable aspect was the opportunity to meet academics and fellow students, both as a means of making contacts and learning about careers and research opportunities in mathematics.

    Dominic Tate 2015 Summer School participant
  • I would recommend AMSI Summer School to other graduate students - the summer break is a great time to learn something new.

    Flavio Nardi 2014 Summer School participant
  • The summer school was an excellent way to get a broad introduction into various topics in a very short amount of time. It has saved me a lot of time (probably months!) in learning the same material independently.

    Joel Ferguson 2015 Summer School participant
  • Very interesting and well taught. The lecturers were very engaging, passionate and positively enthusiastic about the field. This made the lectures and problems approachable, relevant and curiously interesting.

    Daniel Ogburn 2015 Summer School participant
  • The intellectual content is of a high standard. The networking opportunities and social opportunities are valuable and unique. It is one of the few programs that elevate undergraduate mathematics in Australia to an international standard.

    Mahrita Harahap 2015 Summer School participant
  • I enjoyed having the opportunity to meet new people from around the country, and the ability to share interests in areas of mathematics. The courses have allowed me to broaden my knowledge to disciplines, which I have had little to no contact with previously.

    Alex Mundey 2015 Summer School participant
  • AMSI Summer School is a great way to experience a course from a new lecturer in a new environment and to enjoy all the social benefits of being within close quarters to so many other mathematically minded students.

    Kate Atwell 2014 Summer School participant
  • The lecturer gave an excellent course which allowed the participants to gain a decent portion of his deep knowledge of the topic.

    Heath Winning 2015 Summer School participant
  • The most enjoyable aspect was making a lot of new friends from all across Australia, and the condensed four week unit was a great way to study, allowing me to more completely immerse myself in the content.

    Ryland Newstead 2015 Summer School participant
  • The fact that the AMSI Summer School offers some very niche subjects that most universities can’t provide taught by the Australia's best mathematicians and statisticians. I also like how the teachers have all the time in the world for us to consult with them.

    Daniel Ogburn 2015 Summer School participant
  • The most enjoyable aspect was the excellent quality of lecturer and the ability to study a more obscure field than is usually available to an honours student.

    Patrick Eades 2015 Summer School participant
  • The most enjoyable aspects were the experience of living and socialising with other students from all around Australia. The effort by the organisers to make the Summer school worthwhile was very commendable. Thanks for the positive experience.

    Mark Stevens 2015 Summer School participant
  • AMSI Summer School was great for two reasons: the first, it allowed students to explore areas of research not usually offered by their home institution. And secondly, it made me realise just how big the mathematics community really is, by giving me the opportunity to meet mathematics and statistics students, academics and employers from all around Australia.

    Brock Hermans 2014 Summer School participant
  • Would you recommend the AMSI Summer School to other students, and if so, why? I would recommend taking it for the purpose of networking, discovering new areas of maths and stats to study, seeing new cities, experiencing different universities, as well as gaining knew knowledge.

    Devina Martina 2014 Summer School participant
  • AMSI Summer School provides a once in a lifetime opportunity for many students in the mathematical sciences to study a wide variety of advanced topics taught by Australia's foremost lecturers in an inspiring environment. The enthusiasm for mathematics and statistics and the engagement of students and lecturers in the school generates that special energy rarely seen throughout a regular semester. What better way to spend a summer!

    Jan De Gier 2013 AMSI Summer School Director
  • How do you think you have developed as a result of attending the summer school? I developed appreciation of the diversity of mathematics and the application of techniques is not restricted to a narrow field of mathematics.

    Christopher Zoppou 2014 Summer School participant
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