Your heartbeat is measured in minutes, stock exchange averages daily and temperatures monthly and yearly – we find time intervals everywhere. But an important and little-understood problem is whether abnormalities in these time intervals are caused by structural changes or by long correlations over time. Annika Betken received a Veni grant to study this problem.
Because she struggled with the question of what she wanted to do for a long time, Betken hadn’t really expected that she would become an academic. Her earlier interest was primarily in philosophy. "But often you then end up in a completely different professional field in terms of job prospects", she explains. She decided to study mathematics at Ruhr University in the German town of Bochum, which ticked all the boxes. She took over six months for her thesis ‘Analysis of shift points in long-distance dependent time intervals’. "Because I found it so tremendously interesting, I spent much more time on it than was necessary." It was also the period in her life when she reached a turning point. "The idea of doing a PhD after I finished my undergraduate degree never occurred to me. It was eventually the professor who had supervised my Bachelor’s thesis who encouraged me to take the next step."
The question of whether abnormalities in time intervals are caused by structural changes or by long correlations over time will ultimately be answered by a mathematical solution. "Which will then lead to a better understanding of physiological time intervals", Betken explains. "If may, for example, help in identifying physiological disorders, such as epileptic seizures, which paves the way for timely medical treatment." Her research project runs through 2025.
Betken teaches mathematics, with a special focus on statistics across several programmes. ‘I love teaching’, she says. ‘I always think hard about how I can best support my students. When they suddenly have a light-bulb moment in one of my classes, it gives me a rewarding feeling.’ She doesn’t see herself as a teacher who is solely transferring knowledge, but more as someone who is helping students to discover themselves. ‘And who can stimulate a certain intrinsic motivation in them. Something that I believe everyone has in them.’ What she finds most important during her classes is that students feel comfortable with her. ‘I want them to have the feeling that they can ask me any mathematical question they’re curious about.’
Annika Betken studied mathematics at Ruhr University in the German town of Bochum and is currently Assistant Professor and researcher in the department of Mathematics of Operations Research (MOR) of the Faculty of Electrical Engineering, Mathematics and Computer Science (EEMCS) at University of Twente. In 2021 she received a Veni grant of 280,000 euros from research funding body NWO. She is using this to fund her research project ‘Long correlations or structural changes?’ The focus is on the question of whether abnormalities in time intervals are caused by structural changes or by long correlations over time. The grant is intended for recent PhD graduates to pursue their research and give them the chance to develop their ideas over three years.
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