Te Tari Pāngarau me te Tatauranga
Department of Mathematics & Statistics

Recent News

MBIE grant success for Fabien Montiel

Congratulations to Fabien Montiel for being part of a multi-disciplinary team of international researchers that has secured MBIE funding ($1,000,000) through the Endeveour Smart Ideas programme. The project entitled "Better sea ice predictions for shipping via wave-ice forecasting" is led by Dr. Richard Gorman at the National Institute for Water and Atmospheric Research (NIWA). The team will develop a 6-day forecast system for sea ice conditions in conjunction with waves, winds and currents, allowing safer navigation in the ice-covered Southern Ocean.

September 2019

High praise for new book

David Fletcher's new book on model averaging has received a glowing review on Amazon from Professor Simon Wood at the University of Bristol, an internationally-renowned statistician. Professor Wood writes that "This book provides ... an exceptionally clear exposition of the key ideas, illuminated by well chosen worked examples... I found the book a very clear read and learned a good deal from it. Statistics could do with more books of this sort."

August 2019

Students wanted: Simon Marais Competition

The Simon Marais Competition for 2019 is on October 12. Students compete individually or in pairs for a prize pool of over $100,000!

Are you interested? To enter, please contact your local coordinators by September 20: Jörg Hennig ( or Robert Van Gorder (

July 2019

Welcome to Lisa Avery

We are delighted to welcome Lisa Avery back to our Department as a fixed term lecturer. Lisa has a Masters in Statistics from Otago and is currently a PhD candidate at York University, Canada. Her doctoral work is around regression methods in respondent driven sampling data, a surveying strategy that aims to sample from otherwise hard to reach populations. Other areas of interest are longitudinal modelling of individual characteristics and interrupted time series analysis. She is also a big fan of visualizing data and literate programming with R/R studio. Welcome Lisa!

July 2019

Celebrating Alexander Aitken

An official information board celebrating the life of noted mathematician and author Alexander Aitken has been unveiled. Aitken studied at the University of Otago but spent most of his professional life at the University of Edinburgh. He made hugely influential contributions to statistics, algebra and numerical analysis, and was also involved in decrypting the Enigma code. He was an athlete and gifted musician, and was elected to the Royal Society of Literature for his World War I memoir "Gallipoli to the Somme".

June 2019

Web-based tool for environmental experimental design

Peter Dillingham has been at the heart of developing a new web-based simulation and decision support tool for experimental design: the Multiple Environmental Driver Design Lab for Experiments (MEDDLE).

The launch of MEDDLE features in a News & Views article in Nature Climate.

The aim of this new tool, put out by the Scientific Committee on Oceanic Research (SCOR) Working Group 149, is to provide guidance in supporting best practices for oceanic research. The Multiple Environmental Driver Design Lab for Experiments (MEDDLE) provides learning material and user-friendly experimental design tools to help scientists create accurate and statistically meaningful single and multi driver experiments. The MEDDLE simulator is a computer model that mimics some typical responses of marine organisms to multiple drivers. It allows users to run several virtual laboratory experiments by setting the combined levels of the drivers, choosing the number of replicates, and considering natural variability.

May 2019

Katrina Sharples has secured research funding

Researchers from the Otago Global Health Institute have secured funding from the e-Asia Joint Research Programme and the Health Research Council of New Zealand to help improve the management of tuberculosis (TB) in Indonesia. McAuley Professor of International Health Philip Hill and his colleagues, Associate Professor Katrina Sharples and Research Fellow Dr Sue McAllister, will receive $450,000 over three years to carry out a study, which aims to increase the number of cases of TB being publicly notified in Indonesia.

April 2019

Welcome to Darryl MacKenzie

After 17 years in the academic wilderness, we welcome Darryl MacKenzie back to the Department as a part-time Associate Professor in Statistics. Darryl completed his PhD (under Professor Richard Barker) in 2002 on methods to assess the fit of mark-recapture models. While studying for his PhD, Darryl worked at Patuxent Wildlife Research Center (Maryland, USA) and became involved in the development of occupancy models for analysing presence/absence data with imperfect detection, which are now widely used in ecology. Since then, Darryl has run his own consulting company in New Zealand, Proteus, which specialises in the development and application of statistical methods to ecological problems. Often this amounts to figuring out how to make a square peg fit in a round hole! Darryl's main research interests are in the realm of population estimation (e.g., distance sampling, mark-recapture, occupancy modelling, population modelling) both in ecological, and non-ecological, settings.

March 2019

Boris Daszuta, Exceptional PhD thesis

Congratulations to Boris Daszuta, whose thesis "Numerical scalar curvature deformation and a gluing construction" was chosen as a Division of Sciences Exceptional Doctoral Thesis.

Modelling phenomena in the universe at large scales involves numerical simulations based on the equations of general relativity. Initial conditions for a system are selected in order to predict its future. However, the choice of initial data is not arbitrary but must satisfy a set of non-linear constraint equations.

The principal item of Boris's research was development of a new numerical technique allowing for smooth combination of portions of known solutions to the constraints providing new, composite, initial data. A demonstration of the method was shown in gluing of a binary black hole configuration to Schwarzschild initial data. The approach may be of significant interest in engineering numerical space-times possessing novel phenomenology.

March 2019

Welcome to Tim Candy

We are very pleased to welcome Tim Candy to the Department. Tim is a new Lecturer in Mathematics. He did his PhD at the University of Edinburgh, and has spent the past few years as a postdoctoral research fellow at the University of Bielefeld, Germany. Tim's research interests lie in the general area of mathematical analysis, and in particular, on problems arising in partial differential equations and harmonic analysis. Recent work has focused on understanding the global behaviour of various nonlinear dispersive equations, and proving sharp bilinear estimates for products of waves.

March 2019

Welcome to Sarah Wakes

We are very pleased Sarah Wakes has joined us as Associate Professor in Mathematics. Sarah’s current research interests are based around using Computational Fluid Dynamics to predict environmental wind flows and the use of numerical modelling in engineering design. She is currently working on modelling wind flows over complex coastal dune systems including sedimentation and vegetation roughness effects. She has close collaborations with colleagues in Geography and local businesses such as PowerHouse Wind.

As well as teaching in the department Sarah also contributes to the postgraduate Bioengineering programme as well as leading and teaching a popular Sustainability of Materials paper at Summer School. Sarah is the Chair of the Applied Sciences Board of Studies.

March 2019

Welcome to Robert van Gorder

We are delighted to welcome new Senior Lecturer Robert van Gorder to the Department. Robert obtained his PhD in Mathematics from the University of Central Florida and was most recently a research fellow at the University of Oxford. Robert's research interests are in various areas of applied mathematics, mathematical modelling, and differential equations.

March 2019

PhD position to study neutron stars

According to Newtonian Physics, neutron stars have a maximal rotational frequency. But none of the observed neutron stars rotate anywhere close to that limit. Do they lose angular momentum due to gravitational waves? How would that work?

These are some of the question we want to solve in this project within a collaboration with OzGrav, the Australian Centre of Excellence on Gravitational Physics.

Contact: Prof. J. Frauendiener

Image credit: ESO

March 2019

LISA mission to detect gravitational waves

Researchers in the Department are part of a NZ-based group that have joined the LISA Consortium. LISA, or Laser Interferometry Space Antenna, is a family of three satellites that will detect gravitational waves coming from space. Joerg Frauendiener, Florian Beyer and Joerg Hennig in Maths are joined by Matt Parry in Stats, who is also the deputy leader of the group. The group is headed by Renate Meyer in Auckland and the work of the group was recently discussed in the NZ Herald.

Image credit: AEI/MM/exozet

February 2019

New book on model averaging

Congratulations to David Fletcher on the publication of his new monograph on Model Averaging, published by Springer. Model averaging is a means of allowing for model uncertainty when analysing data, and is used in a wide range of application areas, such as ecology, econometrics, meteorology and pharmacology. The book is aimed at both statisticians and scientists, and provides a comprehensive overview and comparison of different methods, with over 600 references. The links between Bayesian and frequentist approaches to model averaging are discussed, as are those between methods developed independently in statistics, econometrics and machine learning.

January 2019

Science Wānanga a hit with Wairoa Māori Students

Dr Phillip Wilcox recently led a module on genetics at a Science Wānanga in Dr Wilcox’s hau kainga (home area) of Te Wairoa in Northern Hawkes Bay. Over 50 Māori tauira (students) from Year 7-10 attended the Wānanga. Tauira learnt to extract DNA from strawberries, Māori concepts of inheritance, and the role of indigenous peoples in domesticating food crops. The wānanga was a huge success and feedback from tauira highlighted the DNA extraction exercise as being particularly memorable. Science Wānanga seeks to positively engage tauira in science-related topics, so that they will consider science as a study option and a career path, thus addressing the underrepresentation of Māori in sciences.

January 2019

Early Career Research Award

We are delighted that Fabien Montiel has received the NZ Mathematical Society's Early Career Researcher Award for 2019. The citation noted his "outstanding contributions to the development of mathematical and computational methods in wave scattering theory and his innovative approach to modelling the propagation of ocean waves in ice-covered seas". Congratulations Fabien!

December 2018

Best research paper

Congratulations to Timothy Bilton for picking up the Division of Sciences 2018 award for best research paper by a postgraduate student. Timothy's work helps account for errors in high-throughput sequencing data.

November 2018

CALT Grant to Assess Numeracy

The Committee for the Advancement of Learning and Teaching (CALT) has awarded a grant to Boris Baeumer for his project on ''A Robust Tool to Assess Numeracy Competency for First Year Students''

(Image credit: Heidi de Vries. CC License)

November 2018

Marsden Fast Start for Fabien Montiel

Fabien has been awarded a Marsden Fund Fast Start to study ocean wave and sea ice interaction. Congratulations!

Increasingly energetic swell in the Southern and Arctic Oceans can no longer be ignored in Earth System Models (ESMs) that are used for climate prediction. The goal of Fabien's project is to develop, validate and assimilate modelling of ocean wave interactions with sea ice in the NZESM, to improve forecasts of sea ice extent, thickness and concentration, and their impact of the climate system.

November 2018

Marsden Fund award for Boris Baeumer

Congratulations to Boris for receiving a Marsden Fund award to study boundary conditions for non-local operators.

Non-local differential operators are a common mathematical tool to spatially model the risk of spread of an invasive species, an epidemic, or any other system where the outliers dominate the dynamics of spread. However, boundary conditions for non-local differential operators on a finite domain remain largely unknown. This not only leads to numerical inefficiencies but also hinders the applicability and accuracy of models.

November 2018

David Bryant elected fellow of the Royal Society

David Bryant has been elected as a fellow of the Royal Society, New Zealand read more

November 2018

Fulbright Scholar

Kelly O'Connell has been awarded a 2013 Fulbright Science and Innovation Graduate Award to study in the United States. Kelly completed her Honours in Mathematics in the Department last year. She will pursue a PhD in Mathematics, specialising in functional analysis, at Vanderbilt University in Tennessee. Kelly leaves for the US at the end of July. Congratulations Kelly!

August 2013