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Spotlighting the accomplishment of an exceptional Master's student

Monday, October 19, 2020

Grace TompkinsWhen Grace Tompkins attended Waterloo’s Grad Visit Day in 2019, she was presented with an opportunity to combine her interests in public health with her research in mathematics. The Master of Mathematics in Biostatistics program was the perfect blend of mathematical theory and epidemiology that she was looking for.

Supervised by professor Michael Wallace, Tompkins’ research focuses on the idea of simplifying processes for patient decision making in health care. She recognized that interpreting medical statistics, understanding uncertainty, and making decisions based on this information is difficult and overwhelming for many. So, she explored methods in decision making that allowed for the retrieval of less quantitative information from patients and found that under many conditions, these methods were beneficial.

“Literacy, particularly in statistics and medicine, should not be a barrier to receive the best possible health care,” explains Tompkins. “Making a decision that can impact one’s livelihood is extremely difficult and can cause a great amount of stress. I think having computer-based programs that could guide a decision using statistics that we can find in medical literature would benefit individual health.”

She’s continuing with her studies at Waterloo, pursuing a PhD in Biostatistics. But Tompkins is also taking a moment to celebrate her accomplishments. As a first-generation university student, she’s proud of completing her master’s degree — even if the pandemic meant she was unexpectedly submitting her research paper from the kitchen table of her childhood home. But maybe it was a fitting end, since she credits her family with helping her get this far.

“I want to thank my parents, Robert and Sheila, for the unconditional love and support. My parents are my number one fans and have sacrificed a lot for my sister Emma and I to be able to have a post-secondary education and follow our passions. I wish that I could celebrate with the three of them on my Convocation day, but I know they are very proud of me and we will find a way to connect virtually.”

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