Department of Mathematics & Statistics
Te Tari Pāngarau me te Tatauranga

Recent News

John Clark

The Department is deeply saddened to report the recent death on July 15 of Associate Professor John Clark. John was a long serving member of the Department having been appointed in 1970 and having retired in 2013.

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July 2017

Maryam Mirzakhani, Fields medalist, dies at 40

Maryam Mirzakhani, the world’s first woman to win the Fields Medal, passed away on July 15 after a four-year battle with breast cancer. She was only 40. See here or here for information about her life and work.

Image credit:By Source (WP:NFCC#4), Fair use,

July 2017

Early Career Research Awards

The outstanding work of Ting Wang and Tilman Davies has seen them both receive Early Career Research awards from the University of Otago. Congratulations to both!

July 2017

Welcome to Melissa Tacy

We are thrilled to welcome Melissa Tacy to the Department as a Lecturer in Mathematics. Melissa's research lies within the intersection of microlocal analysis, semiclassical analysis and harmonic analysis, and is particularly focused on quantum chaos. Most recently, Melissa was at the Mathematical Sciences Institute at the Australian National University.

July 2017

Lenette's retirement

Congratulations to Lenette Grant on her retirement. Lenette first started working for the University in 1964! She will be sorely missed by us all.

June 2017

Top referee

Boris Baeumer has received a citation for Excellence in Refereeing by Water Resources Research, the top journal in hydrology.

June 2017

Desmond Sawyer

The Department is saddened to note the passing of Desmond Sawyer, a former Chair of the Department, on 29 April.

Desmond served Otago well over three periods. He first arrived in Dunedin in 1948, after graduating MA from Cambridge in 1947 and winning the very prestigious Adams Prize the same year. As lecturer he joined three other members of staff in running a large number of courses with an obvious heavy teaching load and little time for research.

In 1952 he moved to University College of the Gold Coast (now Ghana) for two years of very productive research in convexity and the geometry of numbers, before coming back to Otago, gaining a Readership and shortly after the Chair of the Department at the age of 33.

After increasing involvement in administrative matters, Desmond resigned in 1964 to move to the new University of Waikato as Professor of Mathematics and Assistant Vice-Chancellor.

Finally Desmond returned to Dunedin in 1970, now as Professor of Pure Mathematics and Chair of the Department. He oversaw a rapid expansion of both student and staff numbers, and successfully met the challenges that this entailed while still maintaining a full teaching load.

Desmond retired in 1984.

May 2017

National maths competition a family affair

A story on the bulletin board outlines the good work of Warren and Chris Palmer putting together the Junior Maths Competition.

May 2017

Yu Yang awarded honours scholarship

Congratulations to Yu Yang, who has been awarded an honours scholarship from the Australasian Region of the IBS.

April 2017

Sports predictions

Benoit Auvray's application of statistics to the prediction of sports results was recently featured in the Otago Daily Times. Benoit is a Senior Research Fellow in the Quantitative Genetics Group, leading a project to develop a new genomic evaluation system for NZ sheep. The article, however, focuses on his work as director and data scientist at Iris Data Science, a small data science company based in Dunedin.

January 2017

NZMS Research Award

Congratulations to David Bryant for being joint winner of the national NZMS Research Award. David received the award "for work developing mathematical, statistical and computational tools for evolutionary biology, and work drawing on evolutionary biology to develop new theories in mathematics". The annual award was instituted in 1990 to foster mathematical research in New Zealand and to recognise excellence in research carried out by New Zealand mathematicians.

December 2016

Alastair Lamont Highly Commended Talk

We congratulate Alastair Lamont on being joint runner-up in the recent NZ Statistical Association student talk competition. Alastair's talk was entitled 'Estimation of quantitative genetics parameters in partially-genotyped populations'.

December 2016

Postgraduate conference

The NZ Maths & Stats Postgraduate conference was held in Queenstown from November 21-23. This year it was organised by students from our Department. It was a hugely enjoyable experience for those involved. Thanks to the contributors for stimulating talks and discussions, and special thanks to the organisers Paula Bran, Chuen Yen Hong, Jerome Cao, Vee Liem Saw and Johannes Mosig. Chuen Yen also won the prize for the best Statistics talk. Photo: Some of the Otago contingent at NZMASP 2016.

November 2016

Richard Barker appointed Sciences PVC

Congratulations to Prof. Richard Barker on recently being appointed the next Pro-Vice-Chancellor of the Division of Sciences. Richard was the Head of Department from 2008 to early 2016 and will lead the division from 2017.

October 2016

Tilman Davies in profile

Lecturer Tilman Davies has just been profiled for the University of Otago website. Might be time to update the departmental photo, Tilman!

September 2016

The Book of R

Congratulations to Tilman Davies on the publication of his book on R. The book is pitched as a first course in programming and statistics, and is designed to show that in R, programming skills, advanced plotting skills and statistical skills go hand-in-hand. Already it has received rave reviews with the words "epic", "game changer" and "must-have" being used. The Book of R is published by No Starch Press and is available in print and electronic formats.

August 2016

Richard Barker wins award

We congratulate Prof. Richard Barker on winning the 2016 Institute of Directors Otago Southland Branch Emerging Director Award. Full details of the award and prizes are available on the Institute of Directors website.

August 2016