Department of Mathematics and Statistics

Department of Mathematics and Statistics
Department of Mathematics and Statistics

Grad Student Spotlight: Stefanie Knebel
Stefanie Knebel - M.Sc. student ‘18

Graduate Student Spotlight: Stefanie Knebel

June 22nd, 2018

Stefanie was recently awarded a Dean’s award for Women in Science. We sat down with her to find out more about her experience as a grad student.

  Tell us a bit about yourself...

I completed a Bachelor’s degree with honours in psychology from Laurentian University. I worked in geriatrics while completing a thesis that blended concepts from cognitive and social psychology. After graduating, I worked as a lab coordinator in a cognitive psychology lab at Queen’s, and also as a research assistant in geriatric psychiatry at Providence Care.

I then worked towards a B.Sc. degree in mathematics for two years before being admitted into the M.Sc. program in mathematics and statistics. I think the path that I’ve taken to this point allows me to approach math problems with a fresh perspective.

Next year, I’m very excited to begin studies in the Doctoral program here at Queen’s University, working with Dr. Peter Taylor.

  …and about your research

My research is on evolutionary game theory using methods of agent based modeling. The overall theme is the understanding of human behaviour. I’m interested in neuroscience and I will look for ways to incorporate this into my research.

I am also interested in implementing basic concepts of game theory and robotics into the secondary math curriculum, and to assist Dr. Peter Taylor in improving the mathematical experience of both secondary students and teachers.

  What have been some of the highlights in your grad school career at Queen's?

There have been many highlights - it’s difficult to list them all!

I’ve had the opportunity to publish a chapter in a book with my supervisor Peter Taylor and to present at various conferences. Conferences can sometimes be hectic but I always feel a bit like a kid in a candy store! I attended conferences before being admitted into Queen’s but they can be quite pricey, so having a program fund and support me is great.

I’ve also had the pleasure of giving a lecture to a large undergraduate class, which I enjoyed very much. The positive feedback I received from students was really encouraging.

Each summer I’m involved in the Shad Valley program, where we do some fun math with high-achieving secondary school students. I am also a camp leader for the wonderful MathQuest camp offered by Queen’s during the summer for secondary school girls.

Finally, finding a community that loves board games as much I do has been rewarding in and of itself!

  What advice would you give to someone thinking of studying math or statistics at the graduate level?

Think about your motivation for studying mathematics.

Your path in graduate studies will likely have ups and downs. So when things don’t go as planned, view it as a learning experience and an opportunity to grow.

I would recommend students volunteer whenever possible, whether it's volunteering for a nursing home, an outreach program, research lab, a local farm or something else. I've found several benefits can come from volunteer work. Not only is it rewarding to help others in the community but it's always a great learning experience. Most of my passions were realized by first volunteering and then being offered a job. It may also help to keep perspective and make friends along the way. 

Also, if you can, allow hobbies to define you, rather than the idea of a career or job. Recognize how your combination of interests is unique, and use that information to find fulfilling work that you excel in.

  Any advice for young women in particular?

Within the university, we are all here with a common interest of obtaining and sharing knowledge. As women we will encounter a number of similar situations and it’s important that we all begin to work together and help each other. At the end of the day, I hope my work will be what is evaluated, and not my first name, appearance, or gender.

  What do you do in your spare time?

I enjoy hiking and other physical activities, especially when outdoors. I also enjoy tinkering with robotics, such as my Arduino. Music plays a large role in my life, particularly the piano and violin. Here in Kingston, I enjoy attending the Kingston Symphony’s concerts very much. I have an appreciation for antiques, especially the engineering involved, and I have an absolute love of libraries. Oh, and board games!

  What are your goals for the future?

I’ve been trying to make decisions based on what makes me happy. Following a career that includes my passions would be ideal. At the moment, learning from Peter and further exploring my interests in game theory, programming, robotics, education and research is living the dream. In the future, I hope to continue with work that provides similar challenges and fulfillment.