Tanya Philippsen

Current degree: Masters student in Applied Mathematics
Research Supervisors
Dr. Junling Ma
Dr. Pauline van den Driessche

Previous degrees:
Master of Public Health (MPH)
BSc in Microbiology

Tanya Philippsen

What made you choose a degree in mathematics?

I suppose the degree kind of chose me. I have a background in Public Health and Epidemiology. What led me to this degree in Mathematics now was my interest in infectious disease modeling and a desire to focus in this field was what led me to pursuing a degree in Mathematics.

Why did you choose to study your course at University of Victoria?

I got my undergrad in Microbiology from UVIC, so it's like a second home for me. While I was excited to return to the beautiful campus, a key motivating factor was the alignment of my research interest with my supervisors' expertise.

What were your expectations before the programme and did they change afterwards? Were they met?

Some things I hoped for included (but are not limited to): learning more about and participating in the research process, getting the opportunity to further develop my scientific communication skills, and connecting with the broader disease modeling research community. 

From being able to collaborate with our research group to develop and analyze a mathematical model related to contact tracing (motivated by COVID-19) – to attending several workshops and connecting with the community, Uvic has offered me more than I expected.

What’s the community like at the department?

The department is lively and the community is friendly and supportive.

What kind of mathematics did you like the best in school and at the university? Were you interested at all in mathematics in school?  

To be honest, mathematics was not on my radar at all. I only completed the required courses for my Microbiology degree (statistics and a couple of other math courses). I did enjoy my introduction to calculus quite a bit but didn’t imagine pursuing it beyond that.

What area of mathematics are you working in?

The area of mathematics I am predominantly working in is ordinary differential equations, stochastic processes, and matrix algebra.

Tell us more about the research you are studying as part of your degree?

My research focuses on creating mathematical models that can represent the complexities and examine the contribution of various factors (i.e. transmission routes, immunity, control measures, and social behaviors) on the growth, reduction, or persistence of an infectious disease. In particular, I am developing a deterministic model for COVID-19 in British Columbia that incorporates distinct population groups, control measures, and various transmission factors such as asymptomatic infections and between and within-group contacts. Key measures such as the control reproduction number and final epidemic size can be calculated, and the effect of different control measures on the epidemic trajectory can be determined. 

Outside of mathematics, what are your favorite things to do, interests, pursuits?  

I enjoy reading, baking, traveling and gardening - particularly finding food-bearing plants that can grow in our climate (I recently acquired a Chilean Guava plant).