Meet Matthew Baxter:
Matthew Baxter completed his undergraduate degree at the University of Guelph and continued his U of G studies, currently in his first year of a Masters Degree in Statistics with a Collaborative Specialization in Artificial Intelligence. While in his undergrad, Matthew completed an Independent Study course in which studied the Covid-19 epidemic in Toronto using machine learning methods. Because of taking this experiential learning course, Matthew discovered his interest for his next degree, and decided to extend the project into a masters. Matthew was also on the varsity volleyball team at U of G, balancing school and athletics throughout his degree. He discusses how he balanced it all, his experience in both Varsity and Independent Study, what he is up to now in his masters, and advice for students considering grad school.
Tell us about your experience on the varsity volleyball team! What's the general atmosphere of training & games?
“Training was a balance of general fun and competitiveness. If we were on the court, we would sometimes play some games for warm up to help lighten the mood. At the same time however, when it came time for us to focus everyone just became so competitive especially in game-like situations and 3v3 or 6v6 games. That competitiveness just raised the intensity of practice to another level. The same thing can be applied to the weight training sessions we had. You may be laughing one minute, but as soon as you prepare to do your exercise, you have a shift to this attitude of pure focus and determination, and that feeling just radiates throughout they weight room.”
“Game days were always the best days, and I think most will agree. The whole day you are filled with pure excitement and adrenaline for the night. Stepping onto the court with our jerseys on just elevated those feelings. You can feel your teammates energy and feed off one another extending it even further. Those days were definitely the favourite!”
What was it like constantly having a team to work with outside of classes?
“I think it was rather easy to be honest. Normally when practices finish groups of guys would head to the library and do work together. On top of that, there was normally someone in the team room at any point in the day, and guys would hang out there for a while. It was honestly quite easy, we’re around each other pretty much all day and became like a family so there was never a problem!”
Were you involved in intramurals while in your undergrad? If so, what team(s) were you on and what was that like?
“I was only one time and was involved in multi-sport with a few other teammates from the volleyball team. I found it to be quite enjoyable honestly. It let us play some sports that we generally don’t get a chance to like floor hockey and bubble soccer.”
How were you able to balance Varsity and academics? What’s your advice for others trying to balance similar activities?
“I just found a method that worked well for me. I always found I do better when doing a little bit of everything each day rather than cramming one course, so that’s what I stuck to. Having practices everyday can take up a lot of time, so I found doing bits and pieces helped me stay on top of my work more.”
“My advice would be to experiment and find a method that works for you. If you find you do better doing one subject per day, stick to that. If bits and pieces for each subject works well, do that. No method is going to work for everyone, so you just need to experiment and find what works best for you and stick with it.”
Tell us about your independent study that you did!
“My undergrad was focused on statistics at the University of Guelph, so my independent study followed that. Independent studies try to have you work on projects that will have you researching new topics, so mine focused on modelling the Covid-19 epidemic in Toronto using machine learning methods. Specifically, I looked at Individual Level Models and using Random Forest models to predict model parameters using the Toronto data. This project was rather interesting since I have never worked with individual level models, or even random forest models before, so it provided a good challenge! Because of this project, I was able to extend it into a masters at the University of Guelph.”
What are you studying now in your masters?
“Right now I am doing a Masters in Statistics with a specialization in Artificial Intelligence at the University of Guelph. Since I did my independent study, I was able to extend that into my thesis which provides me with a great baseline.”
What would your advice be for others applying to grad school?
“If you can do an independent study, I would suggest doing one. Either you enjoy what you’re studying and what to continue into a masters, or you do something different. Either way it introduces you into the research that you may have to do, and you may be able to have some preliminary work already finished (if you’re extending into your masters). Also find a program that you think would truly interest you. Something I did was investigate some of the courses that I would have to take, and that helped me to make my decision. Your master’s isn’t just a thesis or project, there are other courses you’ll have to take, and you want to take one’s you’ll enjoy!”