6 out of 200 – Parimita Roy is predicting extinction risks for endangered species

Photo courtesy of Parimita Roy

Meet Parimita Roy in this Q&A series with 6 out of 200 computer scientists and mathematicians participating in the 5th Heidelberg Laureate Forum, September 24-29, 2017. 26 Laureates (Abel Prize, Fields Medal, Nevanlinna Prize, Turing Award and ACM Prize in Computing) will attend the forum together with them. For a full week, Heidelberg in Germany will be the hot spot of mathematics and computer science.

What is your name and nationality? I am Parimita Roy from India.

Where did you study and where are you currently based? I completed my Ph.D. from the Indian Institute of Technology (ISM), Dhanbad, India and currently I am at the School of Mathematics at Thapar University, Patiala, India.

What is your current position? At present, I am working as Assistant Professor of Mathematics at Thapar University, India.

What is the focus of your research? What is your research project? My research interests are mathematical modeling, mathematical biology and non-linear dynamics. At present, I am focussing on “Extinction risk analysis for endangered species”, with the aim of developing a framework for extinction risk prediction, which is robust to temporal changes. We are validating our investigations based on historical information, and will be able to anticipate future declines.  I am designing detailed mathematical models with the help of ecologist to this effect. These models are both structurally and dynamically complex and try to answer the following research questions:

  1. Which variables contribute to the decline and extinction of species?
  2. What are effects of climate change on extinction?
  3. When to vaccinate the species to make the operation cost effective?
  4. How to predict future extinction risk by evaluating the driving forces of past extinction events?

Why did you become a mathematician? I loved numbers from my childhood, and the beauty of mathematics in solving difficult problems so easily always fascinated me. So, as a natural progression I took up mathematics as my field of studies. Secondly, I realized there were very few female students studying mathematics in Indian universities especially my region. I took it up as a challenge and went against the defined norms and traditions; I am not disappointed with my progress so far, but I have a lot to look forward to.

What do you see yourself doing in 10 years? I hope to gain great experiences from diverse domains of mathematics, and grow in confidence through successful research disseminations. I wish to be recognized by my peers and hold a position of responsibility, so that my country considers me as a valuable asset. I shall be happy and satisfied if my achievements can inspire students, especially young girls from small town India (as I am from one) to choose a career in mathematics and computing.

What are you doing besides research? Apart from research, most of my time goes in teaching. I teach both bachelors and masters students. Personally, I like travelling and exploring new places, although I have not got much opportunity of late due to the strenuous transition from a student myself to a career as faculty. Further, I love spending time with my family, and don’t want to miss an opportunity to travel back to my hometown, and enjoy a vacation with parents, my beautiful sisters and my wonderful nephew.

Why did you apply for the HLF? I strongly believe that the Heidelberg Laureate Forum will enrich my research exposure and help improve my career prospects. I consider this program as a great opportunity to get in touch with legendary mathematicians and computational scientists, to discover and learn new techniques and insights from them. The primary reason why I am attracted to attend this meeting is the unique opportunity to communicate with leading researchers of the day. The close confluence with laureates and brightest peers from diverse fields will indeed inspire to investigate new mathematical problems, and empower me to probe interdisciplinary domains to fulfill my curiosity. Moreover, I look very forward to visiting the magnificent architectural sites in and around Heidelberg, as well as experience the famous German landscapes and learn about the local culture and way of life.

What do you expect from this meeting? I expect to go back to India with a lot of new ideas and motivation from this opportunity of a lifetime to meet the stalwarts of mathematics and computer science. Moreover, I would like to have an international research training in interdisciplinary areas of biological sciences, mathematical and computer science as a postdoctoral trainee or a visiting researcher in near future. I believe the forum will allow me for forge new collaborations and obtain suitable mentorship, which will enable me to explore the research mobility options.

Which laureates present at the forum would you really like to talk to? I would love to talk to all of the laureates and absorb as much wisdom as I can. In particular, I am looking forward to meet Prof. Martin Hairer, he is a master of stochastic partial differential equations (PDE). I am also working with PDEs (but deterministic in nature) and would like to explore the stochastic domains.

In your research, you try to understand how infectious diseases spread using mathematical models. What is the biggest man-caused factor in the spread of infections? In my opinion, the biggest man-made factor in the spread of infection is lack of awareness, and poor sanitation practices in many developing countries. Ignorance is not always a bliss, especially when survival is the key, and the key is enshrined in proper education and access to basic facilities for the masses. We must change our social behaviors and address the issues both personal and communal for what they are, not what we perceive them to be. Albeit small changes in our day-to-day lifestyles, education, benevolence and social inclusion of marginalized communities with go a long way to fight against the pathogen as well as the divisions among humankind.

Tobias Maier ist promovierter Molekularbiologe mit über zehn Jahren Forschungserfahrung an internationalen Instituten. Er ist Wissenschaftlicher Leiter am Nationalen Institut für Wissenschaftskommunikation (NaWik) in Karlsruhe. Seit 2008 schreibt Tobias das Blog WeiterGen auf den deutschen ScienceBlogs und twittert unter @WeiterGen. --- Tobias Maier is a science communication professional with a ten year track record in biomedical research. He’s the scientific head at the National Institute for Science Communication in Germany (NaWik). Tobias writes a blog on the German ScienceBlogs network and he’s on Twitter as @WeiterGen

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