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Science experiences

Laura Cowen - Mathematics and Statistics

What do birds and statistics have in common? Laura Cowen's background is in seabird research on remote islands off the coast of BC and Alaska. She noticed that after spending months collecting data, this data often sat on shelves as few people had the skills to analyse it.

Laura wanted to fill this gap so she pursued a master’s degree in statistics at Waterloo. She went on to do a PhD in statistics, where she was able to study mark-recapture experiments. These experiments are used by wildlife biologists to estimate population parameters and are a beautiful bridge between the worlds of ecology and statistics.

Research experiences

When asked about her experience as a researcher in Science at UVic, Laura responded, “The Mathematics and Statistics department is seen by the Faculty of Science as a service department. While we do offer many courses to students from other departments, nothing could be further from the truth. Mathematics and Statistics is a department doing excellent research and is the only department in Science where every member has a research grant.”

Laura is part of the Population Research Group, a collection of researchers from various departments and faculties. She's found the connections valuable as they have broadened her interdisciplinary research areas. For example, Laura's had the opportunity to study the behaviour of injection drug users, as well as help to develop a test for syphilis.

Laura’s advice to incoming researchers is to find out early what UVic has to offer in terms of research support. Often there are grants available to assist new researchers (for example travel grants as well as research grants). 

An outdoor enthusiast, Laura bikes to work pulling her son, Shea, in a trailer as he attends UVic daycare. On weekends she enjoys hiking the many hills and trails with her son and husband. 

Find out more about Laura’s research.

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