Global mathematics institute launched at the University of Sydney

12 November 2018
The institute will play a critical role in transforming the cultural status of mathematics in Australia and connecting all Australian mathematicians to the very best in the global research community.
Professor Geordie Williamson (left), director of the University of Sydney Mathematical Research Institute, with Jared Field, a Charles Perkins Scholar at Balliol College, University of Oxford.

Professor Geordie Williamson (left), director of the University of Sydney Mathematical Research Institute, with Jared Field, a Charles Perkins Scholar at Balliol College, University of Oxford. Photo by Jayne Ion

The University of Sydney Mathematical Research Institute was launched on Monday night by founding director Professor Geordie Williamson and the Vice-Chancellor and Principal, Dr Michael Spence.

"This new institute will be a beacon for researchers across the world; a place where the very best can engage in deep science on some of the most fundamental questions facing mathematicians," Professor Williamson said.

"The institute will be a resource for all Australian universities and our vision is to ensure it plays a leading role in transforming the cultural status of mathematical sciences in Australia."

Professor Williamson returned to Australia last year to take up a professorship at the University after five years at the Max Planck Institute for Mathematics in Bonn, Germany. He and the institute's executive director, Professor Anthony Henderson, have together been working to establish the Sydney Mathematical Research Institute.

The institute is broadly modelled on the Max Planck Institute and the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, USA.

"We are thrilled to have Geordie back in Australia to lead this institute," Professor Henderson said.

Professor Jacqui Ramagge at a press conference on Monday.

Professor Jacqui Ramagge at a press conference on Monday. Photo Jayne Ion

Professor Jacqui Ramagge, Head of the School of Mathematics and Statistics at the University of Sydney, said: "The institute will deliver a vibrant research atmosphere enhanced by a mixture of focused research and learning groups, regular seminars and informal discussions, linked to a program of public outreach," she said. "It will eliminate the tyranny of distance and bring the world’s brightest researchers to Australia."

The Sydney Mathematical Research Institute is being established with the generous support of philanthropic funding totalling $6.5 million over 10 years, helping to ensure the institute becomes a permanent feature in world mathematics.

Donors include the Simon Marais Foundation and the Hooper Shaw Foundation.

The Vice-Chancellor, Dr Spence, said: "We are tremendously grateful to the donors who have helped make this institute a reality. Having a world-class global institute here on campus will ensure our researchers – and our Visiting Fellows from across the world – make a deep and lasting impact in the mathematical sciences."

"And the University is fortunate to have Professor Williamson with us to develop the institute’s academic vision over the many years to come."

Professor Williamson this year was elected as a Fellow of the Royal Society in London and was also elected a Fellow of the Australian Academy of Science. At 36, he is the youngest living elected fellow of both prestigious scientific organisations.

The launch event was privileged to have the attendance of Jared Field, an alumnus of the University and recipient of a Charles Perkins Scholarship to pursue a doctorate in mathematical biology at Balliol College, at the University of Oxford.

Mr Field, who is a Kamilaroi man, delivered the Acknowledgement to Country.

He said: "During your early career it’s possible to lose inspiration. Having access to world-class researchers through the institute will help young researchers gain perspective and encourage us to keep going.

"Mathematics can and should be collaborative. At Oxford there are international visitors nearly every week and this encourages a particular atmosphere of excitement around research. This new institute will be particularly important in Australia due to our geographical isolation."

The institute has selected its first 19 visiting fellows from across the world who will arrive at SMRI next year. They come from eight countries and are hosted by 11 Australian universities.

Of the 19 visitors, nine are women or are being hosted by women in Australia.

Sydney Mathematical Research Institute

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