The foundation spoke with the current McEuen scholars: Marika, Malcolm and Katherine, to see how their experience of dual delivery has been thus far. Here are their updates.
Marika Schenkels - 2019 recipient
The past few months in St. Andrews, although uncertain, have been wonderful in so many different ways. I’ve been adapting to the new reality on campus, relying on friends, strolls on the Scores and a phone call or two home when necessary to help keep me grounded. Seeing just a few friends at a time and spending more time outside has allowed me to appreciate the beautiful town I live in and community I feel so incredibly lucky to be a part of. As a medical student, I have in-person teaching more often than many of my flatmates, and my friends, and I have been enjoying immensely the second year of clinical and communication skills sessions. For the elements of my course that are not in-person, I have been amazed by the university’s efforts to move all necessary teaching online, and in a way that is still meaningful and purposeful. I have been continuing to dedicate time to committees, my research endeavours and helping to mentor first-year medical students. Despite the ever-changing situation, I feel settled into life here in Scotland and as always, am so thankful for the McEuen Scholarship Foundation for the opportunity to call this place home.
Katherine Lacroix - 2018 recipient
I’ve been enjoying the dual delivery format and being able to still have in-person seminars while taking lectures at home. Fall is looking beautiful on Saint Andrews, we’ve had a lot of sun and warm weather lately! We are keeping busy with our schoolwork and so not much is changed on our end!
I’ll be returning home for Christmas if the scholarship needs anything from me in Montreal.
Malcolm Risk - 2017 recipient
Although I would certainly prefer to be able to attend classes in-person, the semester has been proceeding well thus far. Most of my courses are in statistics this semester, so they have been heavy on programming content that works well virtually. It has been interesting to learn some novel ways of presenting programming and data analysis to people who might be less experienced in the area. I think that problems often arise when technical work becomes opaque to the people who are trying to use it to draw inferences for policy or research, and some of the tools I have learned to use are really useful for making sure that the work that I produce is transparent. I have also greatly enjoyed writing my dissertation project on space-filling curves, perhaps most prominently for some of the historical research I conducted. It is rare that mathematicians are encouraged to prioritize learning the history within their field, and I find myself continually impressed by the amount of progress made by mathematicians more than 100 years ago who had access to far fewer resources and less conceptual machinery than we do today. I have also managed to create some visualizations of the curves that I am studying, a nice benefit of having access to far more computing power than when the curves attracted the most mathematical interest, from about 1870-1920. Below are visualizations of the Sierpiński (left) and Hilbert (right) space-filling curves, generated by some python code I wrote on my laptop (see designs below).
Despite not being in St. Andrews, I have been able to help a fair bit with the debating society as we have been running most of our events and training sessions online. I judged at Bogwall, the Scottish first-year competition, where 14 St. Andrews first-year students competed, making this the best semester for new members I can remember. I have also been helping teach the newcomers at training every week, even though the time zone difference means that I have to be up a tad earlier than normal.
I have started work on and am planning on submitting applications for PhD programs in Biostatistics later this month, primarily to schools in the US. Most of my motivation comes from how interesting the work I did this summer on life expectancy analysis was, but I would say that the last few months have certainly driven home how important statistics can be for anticipating and reacting to not just infectious diseases, but also the multitude of challenges we can expect in the healthcare sector over the coming years.
It must be said that the pandemic has been pretty disruptive to many of the things I planned to do in my final year, and that sometimes it can be difficult to stay focused with the deluge of worldwide news from the US election to the course of the virus. My family is also moving to Kingston so assisting with that process has taken some amount of time as well. Basement workouts, a big year for reading and exchanging letters with my friends in the UK have all been a big part of staying motivated and productive.