Laying a foundation

Thursday, February 4, 2021

Samantha Wallis’s enthusiasm for statistics is matched only by her longtime passion for visual arts. Even before setting foot on campus, she experienced significant internal conflict about her career direction. “It’s difficult to envision the future when you have so many options and interests,” she admitted.

By declaring a major in statistics and a minor in visual arts, Wallis decided to explore two separate paths at Waterloo. She first gravitated toward statistics as a high school student. “I like how practical and tangible the work is,” she shared. “The ability to collect data and use that information to connect the dots between two seemingly unrelated things makes our world so much better.”

For two co-op terms, Wallis has leveraged her aptitude for statistics in a data engineering role at Quandl, a financial services company that uses data from alternative sources to inform investment decisions. “We work with unique data sets to provide insights that give investors an edge in the market,” she explained. “A common example is using satellite imaging of oil rigs to help investors analyze the future of energy prices.”  

As she considers her path forward after graduation, Wallis thinks about how to meld her twin passions for math and visual arts into one career. While she hasn’t landed on a definitive answer, she has a strong hunch where she will go next.

Lately, Wallis has taken advantage of the brief pauses between classes and assignments to research three-year graduate programs in architecture. Several summers ago, she took a course in architectural theory, history, and design that planted a seed of interest in the field. “I always loved the creative elements of architecture, but I have increasingly realized that architecture requires more than just creativity,” she reflected. “As an architect, you can’t just rely on engineers to consider the technical elements of structure and dimension. That’s where my interest in math comes in.”  

Wallis recently spoke with an architect who affirmed her decision to study mathematics. “She explained that if every student in a master’s program enrolled with an undergraduate degree in architecture, everyone would bring one way of thinking to the table,” said Wallis. “I’m confident that even though not everything I’m studying at the Faculty of Mathematics is directly related to architecture, I’m laying a foundation for the future. When you have a degree in math, you can expand beyond the traditional bounds of the field.”