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Mingmei Teo

Epidemic Modeller

Epidemic MOdeller DST Mingmei Teo maths careers

Arming herself with numeracy knowledge is Mingmei’s key to career success in defence and security

Mingmei Teo, an epidemic modeller with Defence Science and Technology Group (DSTG), says a love of problem-solving led to her career that mixes maths and the military. “I wanted a career where I could make an impact or contribute to society,” she says.

Mingmei also loved STEM subjects in high school, and in particular maths “probably because I had fantastic high school maths teachers who took the time to explain concepts and provided help when I needed it,” she says.

So she completed her Doctorate in Applied Mathematics at the University of Adelaide, with a focus on infectious disease, which she now uses in her current role assisting the Australian Defence Force. As an epidemic modeller, Mingmei uses maths skills like data analysis, modelling and statistics, as well as programming, to help us understand, predict and ultimately prevent the spread of infectious diseases like COVID-19.

Mingmei says it was at uni when she realised the huge potential her maths studies had in solving real-world problems. Just like at uni, when using maths in defence jobs you need to communicate mathematical theories, calculations and outcome. 

“You have to translate the problem that a client might have into algorithms, equations or a mathematical model,” says Mingmei, “and then be able to explain your results in a way they can understand.”

Mingmei’s advice for students interested in a maths career is to seek out support – whether it’s your teachers or lecturers, or a group of friends to bounce ideas and problems off.

Mingmei’s study and career pathway

This article originally appears in Careers with STEM: Maths & Data 2021.

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