Nigel Clay uses his mathematics expertise to model the supply chain for fresh blood that may lead to improved processes for the Australian Red Cross Blood Service, and may ultimately save lives.
PhD (Mathematical Sciences)
It is very humbling to have a flash of insight into my research and realise that I may be the first person in the world to have that approach or idea.
The quantity of blood demanded for a transfusion is random. The quantity of blood donated is random. Fresh blood is perishable. With so much uncertainty, it is difficult to know how much blood should be held in an inventory. Too little and lives could be at risk, too much and precious resources will be discarded.
I am investigating this problem as part of my PhD in Mathematical Sciences. My PhD is a project through the RMIT mathematics and statistics node of the Australian Technology Network's Industry Doctoral Training Centre (IDTC).
This doctoral training program offers me the opportunity to work with a research partner to solve a real-world problem. My industry partner is the Australian Red Cross Blood Service.
I was attracted to the program as the structure looked interesting and that the emphasis was on finding viable solutions to important problems.
Over the four years of the program, I will work on six pieces of technical coursework where I can choose interesting topics that help me with the execution of my research.
After looking at the literature on the mathematics of the blood supply chain and other perishable items, I was able to identify an approach that had not been tried before. It is very humbling to have a flash of insight into my research and realise that I may be the first person in the world to have that approach or idea. I like the idea of solving problems that are meaningful to industry.
It was a real buzz to get a paper through the peer-review process and to have it published in a highly respected journal. I was fortunate to also present a paper at a conference in Lisbon, Portugal and win the ‘Best Doctoral Talk’ award.
My research will improve the robustness of the supply chain for fresh blood and potentially save lives. It may also improve the supply chain in other industries that have perishable products with random supply and demand.