Dr Paul Wu had two dreams as a kid – being a fighter pilot and saving the Great Barrier Reef. Crucial to both is mathematics, and having developed a passion for the subject in his teens, Paul decided to study a Bachelor of Electrical Engineering (heavy in maths) and started his career working in aerospace engineering.
However, when an opportunity came up at the Australian Institute of Marine Science years later, Paul decided to take the skills and knowledge he’d acquired and switch focus to his other passion, the environment.
Now a lecturer in statistical data science at QUT (the Queensland University of Technology), Paul led a 2017 study into predicting when coastal dredging is least likely to stress seagrass meadows – which provide vital shelter and food to marine life, including dugongs.
Using equations and computer simulators, Paul’s work involves creating models to mimic the real world. “A model allows us to predict what a real system would do before trying it,” he says.
Paul says the seagrass research is his proudest work to date, and it could change the way authorities and developers dredge ports, helping to avoid seagrass loss. “Not only is it invaluable to the management of this threatened primary producer, but the methods developed can be extended to other systems such as coral,” he says.
Paul says his own experience proves mastering mathematics and statistics doesn’t limit your career choices. “Maths provides an enormous wealth of tools for tackling the world’s problems,” he says.
– Jake Dean
To get there: bit.ly/QUTSTEM
Paul Wu’s pathway to statistical data science
> > Bachelor of Electrical & Computer Engineering (Hons) and Master of Engineering Science, QUT
> > PhD (Aerospace engineering), QUT
> > Research fellow, Australian Institute of Marine Science
> > Lecturer in statistical data science, QUT
This profile is brought to you in partnership with QUT.
“Maths provides an enormous wealth of tools for tackling the world’s problems.”
Author: Jake Dean
Jake Dean is a South Australian writer and surfer with a passion for science, the environment and conservation.