CHOOSEMATHS Grant recipient profile: Claudia Bucur
The University of Melbourne
Claudia is currently a research Fellow at The University of Melbourne, where she works on nonlocal operators and on peculiar effects due to nonlocality. She obtained her Bachelor in Mathematics from the University of Milan, Italy at the end of 2006. She then went on to working in industry, as a Business Developer in SAS (Statistical Analysis System) for six years. She returned to study Mathematics in 2012, obtaining her Master Degree in 2013 and her PhD in 2017, from the University of Milan. She has currently 8 publications, among which a monography (with E. Valdinoci).
1. Can you give me a quick overview of the type of mathematics you are studying and its potential impacts for the broader community (think how you would explain your work and studies at a BBQ)
I work in the field of integro-differential equations. The main issues that I deal with are related to existence, regularity, quantitative, qualitative and geometric properties of solutions in problems that involve fractional and nonlocal operators of integral type. To be a little more precise, the operators I work with are defined by means of integrals, they are nonlocal, meaning that they consider interactions between points far away, and they are in some sense, the fractional counterpart of some classical operators. For instance, a fractional heat problem could involve say, the “1/3 derivative” to describe the evolution in time, and the “2/5 Laplacian” to describe the diffusion in space. The fractional problem would consider diffusion “coming from far away” and would account for what happened from the beginning of the process (and not only “around” that point and time, as the local problem would).
This type of operators and problems give rise to a beautiful theory and to a lot of work. One interesting aspect is to study the similitudes and sometimes, the quite unexpected differences, with respect to the classical case. Furthermore, this theory could provide further insight into the classical one. The applications are also numerous, for instance in models describing anomalous diffusion, geomorphology, viscoelasticity, signal processing, materials sciences or fractals.
2. You received a CHOOSEMATHS Grant to assist your attendance at AMSI Winter School 2018. How important was this in terms of your ability to attend and fully participate in the sessions throughout the program?
This Grant was crucial for me. It would have been otherwise quite challenging (financially speaking) for me to attend the Winter School in the first place. Also, the grant covered meals and accommodation on campus, really close to the lecture rooms, and this allowed me to fully focus on the mathematics.
3. 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?
I think that the Choose Maths grant provides a valid support for women mathematicians in their early career to access some amazing courses and learning from some outstanding mathematicians. For me, for instance, meeting the women lecturers and the Women in Maths ambassador was really inspiring.
4. In what ways has the experience impacted your maths studies? Has it influenced the direction of your research?
Some of the courses at the Winter School were quite close to my area of research, some of them a little bit further away. It was thus challenging and very useful at the same time to attend all the lectures. In particular, I would definitely like to pursue studying and working on some subjects that I got to know during the Winter School.
5. What was the most valuable part of AMSI Winter School 2018 for you in terms of furthering your career in mathematical sciences?
I consider two things to have been most valuable to me: one was the possibility of learning some subjects that I am interested in, from some experts in the field. The second was meeting and exchanging opinions with some great mathematicians, setting the basis for future collaborations.
6. A presentation on the AMSI Intern program was included as part of the Opening Ceremony. One of the aims of the AMSI Intern program is to maximise employability and help prepare research graduates to drive industry/private sector research. Are you hoping to work with industry? How important is this experience for researchers? Particularly in terms of offering career flexibility for women?
This was the first time I heard about the AMSI Intern program, and I found the initiative to be very interesting. I think it is very useful for any mathematician, whether she/he decides to work in industry or in academic, to be able to apply mathematical models and to work on problems that appear in different contexts in the real life. As for careers for women, I think it is indeed a very interesting opportunity.
7. 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 didn’t spend enough time in Australia to be able to give a reliable answer to this question. Talking from my personal experience, I had the fortune of having a very good maths teacher through high-school. She was an amazing example of a woman in mathematics, she is very prepared, and also very demanding and supporting at the same time, pushing us, both girls and boys, to work more and more. Having her for an example, to be honest, it never occurred to me that men could be more inclined or could be better at maths than women, nor did I get the feeling that maths is a job for men. So, I guess, a change in this mind-set could be a first challenge.
8. Did you always want to pursue a career in maths? Were you encouraged to study these subjects at school? Do any particular mentors come to mind? Any outstanding teachers?
I decided to pursue a career in Maths later on in my life. I was definitely encouraged to pursue this subject in my early years, as I said in the previous question, by my amazing maths teacher (Suzy Manuela Prajea). I am also extraordinary lucky to have met Enrico Valdinoci during my master’s. He became my PhD supervisors, he was extremely supportive, always available, also always pushing me to do more and to try to do better.
9. Where do you see yourself in five, ten years time?
Hopefully in a nice University or Research institute, working on some interesting problems.
10. Any other feedback/comments you would like to provide on the CHOOSEMATHS grant or AMSI Winter School 2018?
Just a great thank you for this amazing opportunity.