The excitement of large datasets and mathematics

Student in the Spotlight for International Women’s Day: Bridget Smart

For Bridget Smart, it was the excitement of working with large datasets to improve the quality of information online that led her to choose her research area.

A Master of Philosophy in Applied Mathematics and Statistics student, she says that she loves studying mathematics because it gives her the opportunity to tackle complex problems with a range of techniques, as well as working between technical and non-technical fields.

Bridget’s work is looking at how we can detect and disrupt malicious activity on online social networks.

“Social media is a platform for people to share ideas, create change and build strong and meaningful connections with others,” she said.

“By understanding how what we see online shapes our actions and opinions and improving methods to detect malicious behaviour, we can better understand phenomenon such as echo chambers, fake news and disinformation campaigns as well as ensuring people can access trustworthy information online.”

What do you love about STEM?

I love the variety of STEM and the ability to work on problems with incredibly talented teams of people.

The skills you learn in STEM can be applied to a wide variety of problems and often the problems are large enough that you need lots of people working on them at once. This ability to work on a variety of problems is one of the things I absolutely love about mathematics.

I see mathematics as a tool to solve these complex problems and have been able to use mathematics to work on problems across a range of areas during my studies so far.

Do you have any advice for your younger self?

Throughout my studies I have had some incredible experiences. These have usually come from opportunities which pushed me out of my comfort zone. It can be really daunting at first to jump into something new or difficult, but I have always found it really rewarding.

One of the most valuable things I have learnt from these experiences is to fully embrace these opportunities while making sure you have enough capacity to engage with each one fully. It can be really hard to say no, but prioritising can help you make the most of the opportunities you have and has been an invaluable lesson to learn. 

What is a personal or professional area that you strive to learn more about?

I would love to attend a high stakes negotiations workshop. Learning how to negotiate can be a really powerful tool in your personal and professional life, and can also give you some great insight into how you make and reason about decisions.

Name an achievement that makes you proud.

Last year I was involved in working on the Youth National Security Strategy, a policy document which aims to think about issues which we are facing domestically and within the Indo-Pacific region. It was an incredibly exciting opportunity outside by comfort zone, and it was awesome to think about implementing practical solutions to complex problems from a completely different perspective. I learnt so much from the experience and the wonderful people I was working with. I’m really excited by the work we did, and can’t wait to see it all put together.

How do you unwind in your spare time?

I really love going for walks in some of the gorgeous national parks around Adelaide. It is an awesome way to take a break and enjoy the sunshine. I find that walking gives me a really great opportunity to think about problems I might be stuck on in my research and think of some new ways to tackle a problem. It is also a lovely way to take a break or catch up with friends!

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