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University of Wollongong
Faculty of Informatics


Huge honours intake

photo of honours class

While recent media reports have detailed declining numbers of students taking mathematics at university level, UOW’s School of Mathematics and Applied Statistics this year has well and truly defied the trend.

The School has attracted 21 honours students which is three times larger than normal intakes.

“Having 21 students outshines even some of the big mathematics departments at metropolitan universities,” according to Dr Mark Nelson, Honours Coordinator, pictured left with 19 of the new honours students. [link to more][March 07]

Commemorative artwork

An artwork commemorating the achievements of the first professor of mathematics at the University of Wollongong, the late Professor Austin Keane, has been installed on the ground floor of Building 15.

The original concept for a sandstone and engraved glass sculpture was produced by a group of creative arts students in 2004, but due to cost contraints the design was simplified and reduced in size. An official "unveiling" of the sculpture is being planned. [Feb 07].

photo of sculpture

Maths in Industry study group at Wollongong

MISG group MISG is currently underway, with about 80 delegates from a number of countries. Professor Robert Mckibbin, Head of Institute of Information and Mathematical Sciences, Massey University, NZ is the invited guest speaker, and will be presenting a special talk on talk on Wednesday 7th Feb entitled:" Industrial mathematics: Endless Conversations". For more details, please check the conference website. [Feb 07]

Statistics research grants

Professor David Steel has been successful in obtaining over $900,000 in funding from the DEST Collaboration &Structural Reform Fund. The project "Applied Statistics Education and Research Collaboration" will form a new Centre involving the statistics hubs at four Australian universities, Wollongong, Newcastle, New England and Western Sydney and will involve joint development and delivery of subjects and courses, and many other joint activities.

David has also been successful in obtaining a NHMRC Development Grant with a team consisting of Ms Yasmine Probst, Prof Linda Tapsell, A/Prof Lori Lockyer, Dr Marijka Batterham and Prof Barry Harper, for their project " The DietAdvice website a newinnovation for dietitians in clinical practice". This grant will provide $138,338 in funding for the one year project.

Interest in MISC

The Mercury recently ran an article in its business section, alerting local companies to the opportunity for problem solving that the Maths-in-Industry Study Group provides.

MISG has an annual meeting where the group tackles real-life problems to provide industries with innovative solutions, and in 2007 this meeting will be held in Wollongong. It is being organised by Tim Marchant and Maureen Edwards, and as always, a large number of staff and students from the School will participate.

The problems examined at the 2006 meeting were:

  1. Multi-variable relationships in a batch annealing process [for New Zealand Steel Ltd, Glenbrook]
  2. Process driven models for spray retention by plants [for Plant Protection Chemistry NZ, Rotorua ]
  3. Developing a prediction model for agricultural land management
    [for Sustainability Soil Management Group, c/o Crop and Food Research, Christchurch ]
  4. Expectation for loss of supply in the New Zealand power system
    [for Transpower, Wellington ]
  5. Dynamical modelling of a washing machine balancing system
    [for Fisher & Paykel, Auckland]
  6. Tree growth and wood formation - application of anisotropic surface growth [for Ensis Ltd, Rotorua ]
  7. Sustainable water management in the Minerals Industry [for Centre for Water in the Minerals Industry / Australian Coal Association Research Program, Queensland ]

A list of past problems solved by MISG can be found from the website at http://misg2006.massey.ac.nz/problems.html

[Link to the Mercury article] Nov 2006




E-Learn conference

There was no chance that Elahe Aminifar would sleep in on the day of her presentation at the international E-Learn conference in Honolulu recently, as she and everyone else in Hawaii were woken by a 6.7 magnitude earthquake around 7am. The first thing Elahe saw when she opened her eyes was the television shaking, and realizing the danger, she ran out on to the balcony as fast as she could.

Fortunately no one was injured, but the conference venue and other parts of the city were left without power so some delegates decided to withdraw. Not Elahe, who loaded her Powerpoint presentation onto the conference laptop and another laptop borrowed from Dr Gwyn Brickell (from UoW's Faculty of Education). The audience came forward, with some of them sitting on the floor in order to see. The title of her talk was "Online solutions to mathematical problems: combining video, audio and stills on the Web", a topic that she has been researching as part of her PhD studies at the University of Wollongong. Her talk was well received, and she got some useful feedback from the audience.  

The lack of power didn't just affect the conference. Meals were a problem, with very long queues at restaurants and shops that were able to serve customers. Power was finally restored at 10pm at night, which made everyone cheer.

For Elahe, this was a conference she will never forget, and she is looking forward to attending the next E-Learn conference in 2007 in Canada.

Details of E-Learn can be found at http://www.aace.org/conf/elearn/
[Oct 06]


Research grant news

Prof Jim Hill and Dr Natalie Thamwattana have been awarded an ARC Discovery Grant from 2007-2011 for a research project entitled 'Modelling applications of nanomaterials in biology and medicine'.

This proposal will address fundamental issues related to nanomaterials and their applications in biology and medicine. Accurate mathematical models will be formulated, leading to new practical techniques in nanobiotechnology, safe and effective methods to diagnose and cure diseases including cancer via targeted drug and gene delivery, and detection methods for biological hazards, such as those arising from biological terrorism.

Dr Robert Clark, Prof Ray Chambers and Mr P Sutcliffe have been awarded a three year ARC Linkage grant with ABS for a project entitled 'Handling Missing Data in Complex Household Surveys'.

This project will substantially improve the cost-efficiency and reliability of Australian household survey data, by creating new approaches for handling missing data that deal with the realities of typical household surveys. The Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) has an extensive program of household surveys that is a key source of information on the social and economic conditions of the population. They provide statistics and data on a large range of social and economic topics, such as health, education, the labour force, income and expenditure. Analysis of household survey data by a variety of organisations underpins policy development and evaluation and the expenditure of billions of dollars.

It was recently announced that Prof. David Steel is part of successful of a national NHMRC project consortium application (it is one of only six nationally successful bids). This will see UoW receive some $183,000 over three years. [Sept 06]

Australian Bureau of Statistics Cadetships

Two Wollongong students were recently awarded prestigious ABS Cadetships for 2007: Jennifer Gordon and Ben Ingram. Only five cadetships were offered nationally, so this is an excellent outcome for UoW. (The other three cadets came from University of NSW, ANU and University of Melbourne respectively).

Cadets are paid while they complete an honours year at university, and are then employed as Research Officers when they complete their studies. The cadetship also includes reimbursement of compulsory university fees, a book allowance and paid leave. [Aug 06]

HSC preparation

Gerry Sozio, head maths teacher from St Mary's College, ran a two day program for Year 12 students from St Marys and Edmund Rice College on campus at the start of July.

The program was revision of much of the HSC syllabus in a way that gave students a taste of University-style lectures and tutorials. Pam Davy and Murray Elder contributed sessions on polynomials and binomial theorem respectively. [July 06]


Maths Teachers Day

On 27 June, the School held a professional development day which was attended by about 45 enthusiastic maths high school teachers.

Featured speakers were Stephen Arnold (from Compass Learning Technologies), who demonstrated ideas for using graphing calculators to teach algebra; Michael Evans (ICE-EM) who spoke about the Australia-wide mathematics program that is currently being tested; and Ruth Gardner (DET) who spoke about assessment.

Michael Evans, one of the guest speakers

Speakers from the School were Graham Williams (Board of Studies review of HSC maths); Rod Nillsen (the maths behind public debate); Ken Russell (use of tree diagrams to teach probability), Michael McCrae (financial maths), Anne Porter (research into teaching) and Greg Doherty. [June 06]

Vice-Chancellors Awards

At the 2006 Vice-Chancellor's Awards, two members of the School were honoured for their contribution to the University. Ken Russell received the Informatics Faculty award for excellence in teaching, and Anne Porter was recognised for 25 years' service, in front of their families, colleagues and distinguished guests. [June 06]

Anne Porter and Ken Russell receiving their awards from the Vice-Chancellor, Professor Gerard Sutton  

Research grant success

SMAS recently received a Teaching and Learning grant of $57,000 to pay for an access grid room at Loftus; we are looking at offering courses at Loftus without staff having to leave the Wollongong campus. The staff involved are Annette Worthy, Anne Porter, Mark Nelson, Peter Nickolas, David Steel, Graham Williams and Ric Caladine from CEDIR.

An ESDF grant of $8,800 was awarded to the Summer Time Maths Project which is to produce a CD on first year maths subjects; the aim will be to provide tests, knowledge and support to students as well as advertising for UoW and courses within the School as well as mathematics and statistics in general. This will allow students to determine what knowledge is assumed in the various subjects and, importantly, allow them to identify and remedy their weaknesses. The staff involved are Anne Porter, Annette Worthy, Mark Nelson, Graham Williams and Ric Caladine.

Dr Annette Porter has been awarded a Teaching and Learning Fellowship to work with CEDIR on the Faculty wide project of Quality101. This project focuses on smoothing the transitions between subjects. [May06]

Anne Porter and Graham Williams, who were both successful in obtaining research grants recently.  


The Faculty of Informatics Prizegiving for 2005 was held on 31 May 2006. We would like to congratulate the following students for their excellent work in 2005:

Graham Williams presents the Austin Keane Memorial Prize to Aaron Thornton Alysha Langbien won the RA Fisher Prize Michael Espinoza, joint winner of the WS Gosstt prize, was overseas so Mrs Espinoza collected the prize on his behalf from Prof David Griffiths
David Griffiths congratulates Tara Kerr, joint winner of the WS Gossett prize Lewis Mitchell won the SA Senior Prize Connie Alchin, winner of the Optiver Prize


Discovery in financial maths

Associate Professor Song-Ping Zhu has recently solved a long-standing problem in financial mathematics; he has found an exact and explicit solution of the Black-Scholes equation for American options. His paper “An Explicit and Exact Solution of the Value of American Put and its Optimal Exercise Boundary” will appear in the June issue of the journal Quantitative Finance.

The exact solution presented in his paper is written in the form of a Taylor's series expansion, which contains infinitely many terms. The optimal exercise boundary, which is the main difficulty of the problem, is found as an explicit function of the risk-free interest rate, the volatility and the time to expiration.

A key feature of his solution procedure, which is based on the homotopy-analysis method, is the optimal exercise boundary being temporarily removed in the solution process of each order, and consequently, the solution of a linear problem can be analytically worked out at each order, resulting in a completely analytical and exact series-expansion solution for the optimal exercise boundary and the option price of American put options.

More detail about the background of this discovery can be found at the University's news page. [April 06]

Excellence in Teaching award for statistician

A/Prof Ken Russell has been awarded a prize for Outstanding Contribution to Teaching and Learning for 2005. This will be no surprise to his past students who have always spoken enthusiastically of Ken’s skill as a lecturer. And as one of his fellow statisticians said "It must be at least twice as difficult to teach statistics well as it is any other subject".

The prize will be presented at the Vice-Chancellor's awards ceremony to be held on 23 June 2006. [Apr 06]

Big Day In

Associate Professor Ken Russell (supervisor) congratulates Jenn Gordon after she presented her project results at the CSIRO's Big Day In for summer scientists  

Over the summer vacation six students were awarded scholarships to allow them to work on research projects supervised by staff of the School. The aim was to give undergraduate students an opportunity to experience research work and perhaps interest them in continuing to honours or postgraduate study.

One of the six, Jenn Gordon, received a scholarship funded by the Australian Institute of Mathematical Sciences. At the end of summer she was invited to CSIRO’s Big Day In, and for Jenn, this was the highlight. As part of the Big Day In, scholarship students from all over Australia presented talks about their research, and heard CSIRO staff talk about their careers. “I didn’t think scientists would be so interesting, but they were” she said.

For more information about ICE-EM’s summer scholarships and the Big Day In, go to www.ice-em.org.au/students.html#scholarships05 [March 06]


News 2005

News 2004

News 2003

News 2002

Updated:May 06