News Archive

Sort by:
Title   Category   Author   Date   Last mod

Limit to:
Category: Subscribe

When does a problem have a solution?

21 Apr 2009 - 13:32 in Event

MSORColloquia img.jpg

Hot on the heels of the first of the MSOR School Colloquium Talks - Richard Arnold 's talk on earthquakes and his election night forecasting, which attracted a large audience - comes the second colloquium talk, this time by Rod Downey. Rod's talk, "When does a problem have a solution: A logician and computability theorist's view", is aimed at a very general audience, and will be accessible to beginning graduate or even advanced undergraduate students.

The talk will be given in the Cotton Club (CO339) at 4pm on Friday May 8th, with refreshments to follow. For more information about the MSOR Research Colloquia, visit, or click on the link on the left side of this page. A short description of Rod's talk is given below:

Much of mathematics is devoted to giving solutions to equations, calculating solutions to problems, classifying structures according to invariants and the like. Natural questions arise as to when this is not possible. This talk looks at questions such as this tracing, in a idiosyncratic way, a historical line leading to modern incarnations wherein logic allows us to show that no invariants are possible for (e.g.) certain problems in group theory. This is done by showing that normal mathematical structures can be caused to emulate computation in faithful ways.

What will the wasp plague be like this year?

31 Jan 2017 - 15:25 in Interesting

New research from Victoria University of Wellington has revealed the population of the common wasp is amplified by spring weather, with warmer and drier springs often meaning more wasps and wasp stings in summer.

The study, published today in the Journal of Animal Ecology, examined 23 years of data from New Zealand and 39 years from the United Kingdom, which included the annual Rothamsted Insect Survey.wasp-web.jpg

“We saw different populations exposed to different weather conditions, which substantially influenced population numbers. The patterns typically show lower numbers of wasps after cold, wet springs, and higher numbers after warm, dry springs,” says lead author Professor Phil Lester from Victoria’s School of Biological Sciences.

“This year we’ve had a really wet spring in many areas across New Zealand. These places that have seen a lot of spring rainfall could expect lower numbers of wasps than average this summer.”

Professor Lester says climate change could considerably increase wasp numbers.

“The average global temperature is rising each year. We are therefore likely to see more wasp abundance in the future as our weather gets warmer.

“We saw this at Rothamsted in the United Kingdom. The area experienced a change in climate in the 1990s, and its warmer spring weather has resulted in considerably higher numbers of wasps.”

The study also found population densities for the upcoming year are heavily dependent on numbers from the previous year.

“If we saw a high abundance of wasps in one year, numbers are likely to be lower in the following year,” explains co-author Dr John Haywood from Victoria’s School of Mathematics and Statistics.

“This is a relatively common way that insect populations change over time. We also determined that wasp populations don’t ‘cycle’—we can’t predict the abundance of wasps three, four or more years from now based on their current numbers. There is no predictable rise and fall of numbers over the long term.”

The invasive common wasp is a native species in the United Kingdom and became established in New Zealand in the 1970s. The insect is a major pest in both countries—in New Zealand it has been estimated to cost the economy in excess of $130 million each year.

Other authors on the study are Dr Michael Archer from York and Chris Shortall from Rothamsted Research, both in the United Kingdom.

The study was supported by the Marsden Fund managed by the Royal Society of New Zealand, as well as New Zealand’s Biological Heritage National Science Challenge, for which Professor Lester leads research into novel pest control technologies.

For more information contact Professor Phil Lester on 021 243 5096 or .

What does detecting gravitational waves mean?

15 Feb 2016 - 15:58 in Research

On 15 February 2016 two of Victoria's astrophysics researchers presented a seminar about the first direct observation of gravitational waves from the merger of two black holes.

The first ever direct observation of gravitational waves from the merger of two black holes was announced by researchers at the LIGO Scientific Collaboration. Their 20 year search for gravitational waves—ripples in the fabric of space-time—confirms a prediction of Albert Einstein’s theory of general relativity just over a century ago.

So what exactly does this big breakthrough mean? Victoria’s Professor Matt Visser, a world-leading expert in general relativity, and Associate Professor Melanie Johnston-Hollitt, an internationally prominent radio astronomer, shared their insights on how it was discovered, what it means, and the future of astrophysics.

Professor Visser’s research looks at the areas of general relativity, quantum field theory, and theoretical cosmology, and Associate Professor Johnston-Hollitt is co-author on the paper describing the electromagnetic follow-up observations of the gravitational wave source.

You can see the presentation here:

Welcome to Eleni Matechou

18 Jan 2011 - 13:34 in Staff

Welcome to Dr Eleni Matechou who is joining us for the year to work with Professor Shirley Pledger and Dr Richard Arnold and to take part in some of our Applied Statistics teaching. Eleni recently completed her PhD at the University of Kent at Canterbury in the UK.

Welcome to Dr Petros Hadjicostas

31 Aug 2011 - 12:30 in Staff

Welcome to Dr Petros Hadjicostas who has joined the staff. Dr Hadjicostas is a mathematical statistician with a PhD from Carnegie Mellon and was recently on staff at the Texas Tech University.

Victoria student gets ticket to Cambridge

17 Apr 2013 - 10:40 in Achievement

Victoria student gets ticket to Cambridge

image003.jpgA Victoria University student is the only New Zealander this year to be awarded a Gates Cambridge Scholarship, to study at a postgraduate level at the University of Cambridge.

Wellingtonian Felix Barber, who is graduating in May with a Bachelor of Science with First Class Honours (majoring in Mathematics and Physics), was one of 51 students from 24 countries to be awarded the Gates Scholarship, which will allow him to study for his Master’s in Applied Mathematics. Globally, more than 3,500 students applied for the scholarships, which assess intellectual ability, leadership capacity, academic fit with Cambridge and the applicant’s commitment to improving the lives of others.

Barber’s award comes after recent success with the William Georgetti Scholarship, which awarded him $180,000 over three years to support the PhD study he hopes to begin at Cambridge after his Master’s degree. The William Georgetti Scholarship is aimed at encouraging postgraduate study and research in a field that is important to the social, cultural or economic development of New Zealand.

“It’s exciting to be awarded these two scholarships and I am very grateful,” says Barber. “I am keen to take full advantage of any opportunities that come my way in the UK to do interesting and exciting work, so that I can one day give back to New Zealand.”

Barber, who originally planned a career as a journalist before realising he was “actually quite good at physics”, plans to focus on research into condensed matter physics or biophysics.

“I want to expand my knowledge base into these areas because I think they will allow me to do work that will have the greatest impact on the lives of others. My hope for the future is to produce research in a dynamic area of physics that can have a positive impact on serious world issues, such as the development of technologies to facilitate sustainable human existence.”

Outside of study, Barber sings in the Wellington Youth Choir, is a keen mountain biker and is learning Spanish. He was also responsible for co-founding the Victoria University Science Society to provide both a social and academic focus for students in the wider science community.

Victoria student awarded prestigious Woolf Fisher scholarship

07 Oct 2016 - 11:47 in Achievement

A Victoria University of Wellington student has been awarded a prestigious Woolf Fisher Trust scholarship worth around $300,000 for his doctoral study at the University of Cambridge.

ls medium.jpgHonours student Liam Jolliffe will travel to Cambridge in the United Kingdom to study for a PhD in Pure Mathematics and Mathematical Statistics.

Sir Woolf Fisher (1912-1975), co-founder of Fisher and Paykel, set up his Trust in 1960 to recognise and reward excellence in education. The Scholarship selects young New Zealanders based on their outstanding academic ability, leadership potential as well as their integrity, vision and capacity for work.

Liam studied at Wairarapa College before coming to Victoria to complete a Bachelor of Science in Mathematics and Physics.

In his time at Victoria he has won numerous awards for academic excellence, including the Geoffrey A Rowan Memorial Bursary prize awarded to the best 300-level mathematics student, the Pablo Etchegoin Prize in Experimental Physics, and a Victoria Graduate Award in 2015.

Liam, a keen footballer and saxophonist, says he sees his future in academia.

“I will complete a Master of Advanced Studies at Cambridge, before transitioning to the PhD programme.

“I chose my degree at Victoria with no particular path in mind—I was just following my curiosity as I wanted to learn more about how the world works. Now, I see my future career in academia. Research will ensure I am challenged and engaged in interesting new material, and teaching will allow me to pass on my love for mathematics. I hope to return to Wellington and Victoria University later in my career.”

Liam has been studying algebraic matroids in his Honours research project, says Dr Dillon Mayhew from Victoria's School of Mathematics and Statistics.

"This area of mathematics is notoriously difficult to grasp, but Liam has quite quickly clarified the connections between two different ways of viewing these objects. No doubt his study at Cambridge will be equally successful."

Sir Noel Robinson, Chairman of the Woolf Fisher Trust, says, “We are delighted that we have had such a strong field shortlisted for this year’s scholarships. They each bring a range of strengths and research interests. And most importantly, they embody the characteristics envisaged by Sir Woolf when he established the scholarship. We will follow their progress with great pride and great interest.”

Victoria’s new degree to fill gap across multiple industries

29 Jan 2016 - 11:01 in Achievement

The first group of students from Victoria University of Wellington has successfully completed the country’s only university course in actuarial science.

The University’s Head of the School of Mathematics and Statistics Dr Peter Donelan says actuarial science is entering a new era beyond assessing life and financial risk as governments and businesses grapple with social investment and the effects of climate change.

The new undergraduate programme offered at Victoria is in response to the growing need for professionals who can analyse, measure and manage risk, he says.

“We live in a world where we are increasingly conscious of risk, whether from natural hazards such as earthquakes and storms, personal factors relating to health, disease and lifestyle, or uncertainty in financial markets, investments and asset management.

“There’s a growing demand for actuarial skills, not just across the traditional fields of insurance and finance, but in areas such as government, education, health and software development,” he says.

The actuarial science major, available in both the Bachelor of Commerce and Bachelor of Science degrees, encompasses a range of papers across economics, finance, mathematics, statistics and the actuarial science paper in the students’ final year.

Seven students completed the paper that ran for the first time throughout the second half of 2015.

To mark the occasion, a special ceremony was held last week where two promising actuarial science students, Ross Engelbrecht and Juanying (Jenny) Hu, were each awarded $2,500 prizes for outstanding academic merit.

The prizes were established in conjunction with ACC, Wellington’s largest employer of actuaries, in honour of ACC’s head actuary and Victoria alumnus Jonathan Nicholls who passed away in 2015.

Professor Bob Buckle, Pro Vice-Chancellor and Dean of Commerce, says the programme has been thoughtfully designed with extensive industry input.

“The New Zealand Society of Actuaries and individuals in the industry have lent their expertise to help shape the programme so it instils students with the right mix of skills, theory and practical experience.”

“One of the other great things about the programme is it provides opportunities for students to connect directly with leading members of the profession and from there, develop links with potential employers,” he says.

For more information contact Dr Peter Donelan on 04-463 5659 or

Victoria Researcher Scoop Science Awards

28 Jan 2014 - 11:18 in Achievement

Victoria researchers scoop science awards

Noam Greenberg2 copy.jpgVictoria University researchers Dr Noam Greenberg and Dr Simon Lamb have scooped New Zealand Association of Scientists (NZAS) awards for their contribution to science.

Dr Greenberg, an Associate Professor in Victoria’s School of Mathematics, Statistics and Operations Research, is the recipient of the 2013 Research Medal, awarded for outstanding research published by a scientist under the age of 40.

Dr Greenberg works on the mathematics of computability, carrying out research which sheds light on the fundamental capabilities and limitations of the algorithms used by modern computers and software.

The international quality of his research has been recognised by the award of a Rutherford Discovery Fellowship from the Royal Society of New Zealand in 2011, and a Turing Research Fellowship from the United States-based John Templeton Foundation in 2012.

Dr Simon Lamb, an Associate Professor in the School of Geography, Environment and Earth Sciences is the recipient of the 2013 Science Communicators Award for excellence in communicating science to the general public.

Dr Lamb has a sustained record of high impact communication of the science of climate change. He is the maker of Thin Ice, a documentary on climate change released in April last year that has since been viewed more than 50,000 times. He has also written several books and made television programmes and films which have reached large global audiences. His book, The Devil and the Mountain, which describes his own research into the formation of the Andes, was named on the New York Times Book Review’s list of 100 Notable Books for 2004.

The Awards will be presented at the 2014 Annual Conference of the NZAS, which takes place in Auckland on Saturday 5 April.

VUW student wins Sacks Prize

26 Mar 2012 - 15:25 in Achievement

The Sacks Prize for the best PhD thesis in logic worldwide in 2011 has been won by Dr Adam Day who completed his PhD in "Randomness and Computability" with the School in 2011 under the supervision of Professor Rod Downey. It is the first time this prize has been won outside of France, Toronto and the US. It is recognition of the logic group at VUW, and of Adam's thesis. Adam is currently in receipt of a Miller Fellowship at the University of California at Berkeley and also won the Royal Society's Hatherton Prize last year for the best paper in physical, earth or maths and information sciences by a New Zealand university PhD student. Our congratulations to Adam!

image of Adam Day

VUW Research Excellence award for Rod Downey

23 Mar 2009 - 15:39 in Achievement

Professor Downey will receive a 2009 VUW Award for Research Excellence on 25 March 2009. Congratulations to Rod!

Upcoming MSOR Colloquium

25 Jun 2009 - 11:14 in Event

At 4pm Friday 17 July 2009, in CO339, Dillon Mayhew will present the next MSOR Colloqium: "What is a Matroid?"

Abstract: Matroids are abstract objects that lie just beneath the surface of many naturally-occurring mathematical entities. In this talk I will explain what matroids are, why you should be interested in them, and more particularly, why I am interested in them. The talk will be introductory, and no prior knowledge will be assumed.

Two new books from the School

13 Jul 2011 - 10:18 in Achievement

Two new books have been published recently, authored by members of the School. Professors Rob Goldblatt and Rod Downey, both members of the Mathematics group for the School of Mathematics, Statistics and Operations Research.

Rob Goldblatt's new book is "Quantifiers, Propositions and Identity: Admissible Semantics for Quantified Modal and Substructural Logics" published by Cambridge University Press and the Association for Symbolic Logic.

Earlier in the year, Rod Downey and Denis Hirschfeldt had their book "Algorithmic Randomness and Complexity" published by Springer.

QPIcover.small.jpgRod Book.jpg

Two PhD Completions

06 Aug 2010 - 15:02 in Achievement

Johnathan Crook and Giorgi Kvizhinadze have completed their PhDs. Jonathan's thesis is entitled "Ice Growth and Platelet Crystals in Antarctica", supervised by Mark McGuinness, and Giorgi's thesis is "Large number of rare events: Diversity analysis in multiple choice questionares and related topics", supervised by Estate Khmaladze.

Congratulations to both!

Turing’s Legacy among the best of 2014

29 Jun 2015 - 16:26 in Achievement

Professor Rod Downey’s edited collection of articles “Turing’s Legacy: Developments from Turing’s Ideas in Logic” has been chosen as one of the notable books on computing for 2014. The 'Annual Best of Computing’ list is compiled by Computing Reviews, part of the world’s leading computing society, the Association for Computing Machinery (ACM).


Downey’s book brings together essays by leading experts in logic, artificial intelligence, computability theory and quantum computing to trace the influence of Alan Turing, recognised as one of the geniuses of modern mathematics. In addition to leading the Allied forces' code-breaking effort at Bletchley Park in World War II, he proposed the theoretical foundations of modern computing and anticipated developments in areas from information theory to computer chess. The book includes Downey’s own essay concerning Turing’s impact on computability theory and the idea of algorithmic randomness.

The complete list of notable books and articles can be found here.

Thesis completion

18 May 2009 - 09:42 in Achievement

Congratulations to Galym Akishev who has completed the requirements for his PhD with his thesis "Monadic Bounded Algebras" under the supervision of Prof Rob Goldblatt.

Summer Research Scholarships 2014/2015

29 Sep 2014 - 09:40 in Event

Summer Research Scholarships are on offer across the Faculty of Science, including through the Antarctic Research Centre, Robinson Research Institute and Ferrier Research Institute. Some are externally funded and will involve students working with external organisations around Wellington. Applications for the 2014/2015 round are now open, and are due on the 1st of October. For more information please click here

Summer Gold Poster Competition Winner

10 Sep 2014 - 09:27 in Achievement

Jasmine Hall, one of our current Masters students, recently won the Summer Gold Poster Competition - this was open to anyone with a Summer Scholarship to create a poster explaining their research. Her poster was entitled "Extremal Values for Flats in Matroids" and basically just introduced the main matroid concepts in the research. The posters were split into groups according to Faculty and Jasmine won a $500 prize for best poster in her group.

Jasmine's winning poster is linked below as an attachment to view.

Success in 2013 Marsden Round

13 Nov 2013 - 12:13 in Achievement

Photo1 copy.jpg

Research in the School of Mathematics, Statistics and Operations Research continues to go from strength to strength, with staff being awarded four Marsden grants in the 2013 round and another staff member being an associate investigator on a fifth project.

Associate Professor Noam Greenberg has been awarded Marsden funding for a project on which he is joint Principal Investigator with Professor Andre Nies at the University of Auckland. Dr Greenberg’s project, entitled ‘Randomness, Analysis and Reverse Mathematics’, will relate measures of complexity of mathematical structures and processes. Computationally, one asks what kind of information is required to mechanically implement a process. In terms of proof-theoretic strength, reverse mathematics investigates what basic facts are necessary for understanding a structure or process. The project will investigate the connections between these questions and how they apply to the areas of randomness and real analysis.

Also in the mathematical logic group, Dr Adam Day and Dr Alex Usvyatsov, have each been awarded $300,000 Fast Start grants given to outstanding emerging researchers. Their projects concern questions related to Greenberg's. In Dr Day's research, his point of departure is that two real numbers are computationally equivalent if given one, it is possible to compute the other, and vice versa. He proposes to investigate a longstanding conjecture of leading logician Donald (Tony) Martin, that has many profound consequences. The conjecture proposes that there is a simple classification of the functions that maintain computational equivalence.

Dr Usvyatsov observes that structural dichotomies are an exciting motif in mathematics. In various areas, seemingly unrelated results of a similar flavour are being discovered: objects are either "nice" and "well-understood", or "very complicated" and "unclassifiable". Model theory offers a general approach to such phenomena via investigating the connections between the complexity of theories (collections of axioms) and the mathematical objects that they describe. The goal of his project is to address a mysterious dichotomy-like behavior that (based on all known examples) seems to arise in the world of continuous mathematics. His hope is to uncover the underlying reasons for this poorly understood phenomenon.

The three Marsden grants for members of the mathematical logic group at Victoria confirm the status of Victoria as one of the leading centres for logic in the world.

There has also been considerable acclaim this year for Professor Geoff Whittle who, along with colleagues in Canada and the Netherlands, has solved a 40-year old mathematical problem known as Rota’s Conjecture. It took the team more than 15 years work to formulate the essential ingredients to prove their fundamental result, which is in the area of matroids, a type of finite geometry. Professor Whittle also received a Marsden grant this year to continue his research. He notes that the research group is confident that with the techniques and results they have established, and with the strategies in place, a well-defined program of mathematical research will complete this goal.

Dr John Haywood, in the statistics and operations research group, is working with Professor Phil Lester in the School of Biological Sciences on another Victoria Marsden project. They aim to develop a new approach in biological control and biological invasion theory, to help mediate the impact of exotic species on biodiversity. In particular, they will compare the ecological interaction networks of the invasive wasp Vespula vulgaris in its home range and in invaded regions.

Success for former Postdoc Dr Antonio Montalban

22 Mar 2011 - 17:26 in Achievement

Our congratulations to former postdoctoral fellow Dr Antonio Montalban who worked with Professor Downey (supported by the Marsden Fund and NZIMA). He recently got tenure at University of Chicago and was awarded a Packard Fellowship (the only one in maths this year) worth $US875K over 5 years (unrestricted).

Success for PhD student

17 Feb 2012 - 14:51 in Achievement

Kyle Tate was co-winner of the Kerr prize for the best student presentation at the Sixth Australasian Conference on General Relativity and Gravitation held last week in Queenstown. Kyle is supervised by Professor Matt Visser. Congratulations Kyle. See for further details.

Success for MSc Student

23 Apr 2013 - 14:31 in Achievement

Success for MSc Student

Simon Anastasiadis recently finished his MSc study in Statistics and Operations Research with distinction. At the end of 2012 he applied for

PhD study at several prestigious US universities. As a result, Simon was offered admission to the University of California, Berkeley, Industrial Engineering and Operations Research programme, along with the prestigious Berkeley Fellowship for Graduate Study, which is offered to only the top four percent of admitted doctoral students. He was also offered admission to the interdepartmental doctoral degree programme in Operations Research at MIT with full financial support for four academic years. In addition, he was offered admission to the Management Science and Engineering programme at Stanford University also with full financial support. Simon has accepted the offer from Stanford and will be undertaking his postgraduate studies starting September 2013. Congratulations to Simon!

PhD Scholarship in Image Recognition Available

05 Feb 2009 - 10:35 in Research

A PhD Vice-Chancellor's Strategic Research Topic Scholarship for "Particle Swarm Optimization for Image Recognition" is available under the supervision of Dr Mark Johnston.

Image recognition tasks arise in a wide variety of practical situations, e.g., detecting faces from video images, identifying suspected terrorists from fingerprint images and diagnosing medical conditions from X-rays. Particle Swarm Optimization (PSO) is a stochastic, population-based evolutionary algorithm for solving optimization problems (in Operations Research) and image classification problems (in Artificial Intelligence). PSO uses ideas analogous to biological evolution and social-psychological principles of behaviour to search the space of candidate solutions for a particular task. PSO has been applied to a variety of image recognition and optimisation tasks and has achieved a certain level of success. However, there are still limitations in particle topology and representation, search algorithms and feature discovery in PSO that restrict PSO for difficult image classification tasks.

Scholarships applications close on 15 May and application forms will be available shortly from the Scholarships website. Interested applicants should complete the application form, and also contact Dr Mark Johnston.

Google Chief Economist says Statistics is a great career...

05 Feb 2009 - 17:14 in Administrative

Here is a short (< 2 min) YouTube video providing career advice from the Chief Economist at Google. And here's a NY Times article interviewing him (Hal Varian) where he says: "If you are looking for a career where your services will be in high demand, you should find something where you provide a scarce, complementary service to something that is getting ubiquitous and cheap. So what's getting ubiquitous and cheap? Data. And what is complementary to data? Analysis. So my recommendation is to take lots of courses about how to manipulate and analyze data: databases, machine learning, econometrics, statistics, visualization, and so on."

Scholarship Success for Statistics Students

12 Jan 2009 - 12:55 in Achievement

Congratulations to Statistics Graduate Diploma student Ray Tobler who has been awarded a Victoria Graduate Award to support his studies in statistics and quantitative genetics.

And congratulations too to Vidette McGregor has been awarded a Ministry of Fisheries Postgraduate Scholarship in Quantitative Fisheries Science. She will undertake an MSc in Statistics and Operations Research and will pursue a thesis in Modelling of Fish Populations.

Statistical consultant’s work on social inequality in New Zealand

09 Sep 2014 - 15:40 in Staff in Action

Social inequality has worsened over the past decade in New Zealand, a new study from Victoria University of Wellington shows.

Research by Dr Lisa Marriott, an associate professor in Victoria’s School of Accounting and Commercial Law, and Dr Dalice Sim, Statistical Consultant in the School of Mathematics, Statistics and Operations Research, builds on a report produced by the Ministry of Social Development in 2003. It reveals that, on the whole, inequality has worsened over the last 10 years for Māori and Pacific people relative to Europeans.

Lisa and Dalice examined 21 social inequality indicators, including measures of health; knowledge and skills; employment; standards of living; cultural identity; and social connectedness. Increased gaps were found between Europeans and Māori, and Europeans and Pacific people, in most of these areas. The working paper can be found at

Associate Professor Marriott was interviewed about their findings on Checkpoint (1 August)

Solving Rota’s Conjecture

09 Sep 2014 - 15:37 in Interesting

In August last year Professor Geoff Whittle announced that he and collaborators Jim Geelen and Bert Gerards had proved the 40-year-old Rota’s Conjecture on the representability of matroids over finite fields. Now a high-level summary and brief history of the proof, by the three researchers, has appeared in the prestigious Notices of the American Mathematical Society. See Geoff, Gerards and Geelen are now immersed in formally writing up the proof, a process that will take several years' intensive work.

Simply the Best

23 Sep 2014 - 12:11 in Staff

The university’s alumni magazine published an article in its Autumn 2014 edition on the success of mathematics at Victoria. Here is an extended version of that article by Professor Rod Downey, Click Here

Sima Rouhollahi wins VUW PhD Scholarship

18 Aug 2010 - 17:51 in Achievement

Congratulations to Sima Rouhollahi who has been awarded a VUW PhD scholarship. She is planning to write a thesis on the topic of Mathematical models for imperfect repairs of systems in two-dimensions (time and usage). She will carry out this work under the supervision of Dr Stefanka Chukova and Dr Richard Arnold, and begin her studies in September.

Second MSOR Colloquium Talk this Friday

05 May 2009 - 14:09 in Event

MSORColloquia img.jpg

Hot on the heels of the first of the MSOR School Colloquium Talks - Richard Arnold 's talk on earthquakes and his election night forecasting, which attracted a large audience - comes the second colloquium talk, this time by Rod Downey. Rod's talk, "When does a problem have a solution: A logician and computability theorist's view", is aimed at a very general audience, and will be accessible to beginning graduate or even advanced undergraduate students.

The talk will be given in the Cotton Club (CO339) at 4pm on Friday May 8th, with refreshments to follow. For more information about the MSOR Research Colloquia, visit, or click on the link on the left side of this page. A short description of Rod's talk is given below:

Much of mathematics is devoted to giving solutions to equations, calculating solutions to problems, classifying structures according to invariants and the like. Natural questions arise as to when this is not possible. This talk looks at questions such as this tracing, in a idiosyncratic way, a historical line leading to modern incarnations wherein logic allows us to show that no invariants are possible for (e.g.) certain problems in group theory. This is done by showing that normal mathematical structures can be caused to emulate computation in faithful ways.

This news item is a repeat of an earlier reminder about Rod's talk.

Scholarship Success - Livestock Improvement Corporation

10 Dec 2008 - 16:13 in Achievement

Congratulations to Statistics Graduate Diploma student Ray Tobler and his supervisor Dr Nokuthaba Sibanda: Ray has been awarded the Livestock Improvement Corporation Patrick Shannon Undergraduate Scholarship for 2009. Ray will receive a grant to support his studies, and will also work for one month at the Livestock Improvement Corporation on a project in quantitative genetics.

Former Operations Research student Sarah Marshall appointed to Strathclyde

11 Oct 2010 - 11:15 in Achievement

Sarah Marshall, who completed her MSc in 2007 in Statistics and Operations Research and got a full financial support from the University of Edinburgh for her PhD study, has been offered a 2 year fixed term teaching associate position at the University of Strathclyde in Glasgow. Congratulations to Sarah!

Rutherford Fellowship for Noam Greenberg

11 Nov 2010 - 09:41 in Achievement

Congratulations to Noam Greenberg who has won one of ten nationwide Rutherford Fellowships for future stars of New Zealand science. Noam's fellowship is worth $200,000 per annum for five years to enable him to pursue his research into non-computable objects.

Rod Downey at Royal Society Science Forum

05 May 2009 - 15:40 in Event

Professor Rod Downey was invited to take part in the Royal Society's Speakers Science Forum on Tuesday 5 May 2009 at Parliament Buildings..

Every year, the Royal Society of New Zealand runs a series of short science talks for Members of Parliament, under the auspices of the Speaker of Parliament. The series runs from March to June on selected Tuesday nights. It is timed to fit within MP's dinner hour. Each session concludes with a light buffet dinner before MPs go back into session.

Rod Downey on Alan Turing

12 Mar 2015 - 11:37 in Event


Rod Downey, one of the world’s leading experts on the theory of computation and a Professor in the School of Mathematics, Statistics and Operations Research, has been talking about the work of computing pioneer and Bletchley Park code-breaker extraordinaire Alan Turing.

An interview with Rod on Alan Turing’s life, work and influence, as well as his portrayal in the recent movie 'The Imitation game’, is to be aired on Our Changing World at 9pm on Thursday 12 March. A longer audio version of the talk is available at:

In February, Rod also gave a public lecture 'Alan Turing, Computing, Bletchley and Mathematics’. A recording of the talk is available here

Slides accompanying the lecture are also available at

Rod Downey awarded the Hector Medal

17 Nov 2011 - 09:11 in Achievement

Professor Rod Downey has been awarded the 2011 Hector Medal for outstanding work in mathematical and information sciences by a researcher in New Zealand. Professor Downey was awarded the medal for his influential and innovative work in mathematical logic.

Rod Downey appointed to Marsden Council

23 Mar 2009 - 15:38 in Research

The Minister for Research, Science and Technology Wayne Mapp has appointed Professor of Mathematics Rod Downey to the Marsden Fund Council.

Professor Downey was awarded a James Cook Fellowship in 2008 and was the inaugural Maclaurin Fellow at the New Zealand Institute for Mathematics and its Applications (NZIMA) CoRE. He is a Fellow of the Royal Society of New Zealand and the only New Zealand-based mathematician to give an invited lecture at the International Congress of Mathematicians.

His role on the Marsden Fund Council is to provide guidance on investments made by the fund in leading-edge research projects. He will convene the Mathematical and Information Sciences panel. The Marsden Fund Council comprises ten eminent researchers - a Chair and nine convenors. Each heads a panel in their academic field. Panels work to assess applications for funding of research projects.

Rod Downey and coauthors win 2010 Schoenfield Prize for Best Article

27 Sep 2010 - 10:01 in Achievement

Rod Downey along with collaborators Denis Hirschfeldt (our regular visitor from Chicago), Andre Nies (Auckland) and Sebaastiaan Terwjn (Nijmegen) have won the 2010 Schoenfield Prize (article section) for outstanding writing in the field of logic. The prize, of $1,000, is for their article 'Calibrating Randomness' (BSL, September 2006) and will be awarded at the 2011 ASL North American Meeting in Berkeley in March. This is an outstanding achievement

Rod Downey Founder of International Conference series CCR

10 Mar 2016 - 16:54 in Research

Rod Downey is a founder, with Veronica Becher in (Buenos Aires, Argentina) and Denis Hirschfeldt (Chicago), of the international conference series Computability, Complexity and Randomness (CCR), first held in 2004 and an annual event since 2007.

Rod is also on the conference series steering committee.

The 2016 meeting was recently held in Honolulu and Rod will be co-editor of the proceedings, due to appear in the journal Theory of Computing Systems. Among the invited speakers at the meeting were current postdoctoral fellow Linda Brown Westrick and lecturer Dan Turetsky - further evidence of the strength of Victoria University in this exciting research area.

A local tv show was made about the CCR conference in Hawaii and can be seen here:

Researcher solves 40 year old problem

22 Aug 2013 - 13:46 in Research

Victoria researcher solves 40 year-old math problem

image005.jpgA Victoria University of Wellington mathematician has experienced his own eureka moment, solving a 40 year-old mathematical problem.

Professor Geoff Whittle, from Victoria’s School of Mathematics, Statistics and Operations Research, has been working with colleagues Professor Jim Geelen (Canada) and Professor Bert Gerards (Netherlands) to solve a problem posed by the famous mathematician and philosopher Gian-Carlo Rota in 1970.

Earlier this year the trio realised that, after more than 15 years of work, they had achieved all the essential ingredients to prove Rota’s Conjecture.

Geoff visited the United Kingdom last month to break news of the discovery to mathematics colleagues at a conference where he was a guest speaker.

Rota’s Conjecture relates to a specialised area of mathematics known as matroid theory, a modern form of geometry, which Geoff specialises in.

Rather than focusing on distance and angles, matroid theory investigates properties of structures which don’t change under projection—for example, whether or not three points are always on a line, or four points are on a plane.

The theory investigates geometric structures that can be completely different from those in our world, and Rota’s Conjecture is a way of using mathematics to recognise these alternative structures.

“I like to compare it to Kafka’s Metamorphosis story, where a man wakes up and realises he has transformed into an insect—the way he views the world changes entirely,” says Geoff.

“Matroid theory is all about visualising a world of new geometrical structures and developing ways of describing the big, overarching structures which would emerge.”

Although he has been working on proving Rota’s Conjecture for a long period of time, Geoff says the hard work will really begin now, as the team starts writing up the results of its work.

“Resolving Rota’s Conjecture is really special, and the product of many, many years of collaborative work.

“Now, we have a lot of writing to do, which I expect to take several more years—as well as many hundreds of pages of journal articles.”

“It’s a little bit like discovering a new mountain—we’ve crossed many hurdles to reach a new destination and we have returned scratched, bloodied and bruised from the arduous journey—we now need to create a pathway so others can reach it.”

Head of School Dr Peter Donelan is also excited about the news, which he believes will attract international recognition.

“This will be regarded as one of the outstanding mathematical achievements in recent years,” he says.

Geoff has been based at Victoria University since 1992, when he joined the School of Mathematics, Statistics and Operations Research as a lecturer. He was promoted to Reader in 1997 and to Professor in 2001.

Geoff is recognised as a world leader in the field of discrete mathematics. He has spent time as a visiting research fellow at Merton College, Oxford and is a Fellow of the Royal Society of New Zealand. In 1996, his achievements were recognised with the New Zealand Mathematical Society’s Research Award.

For more information, contact Professor Geoff Whittle, phone 04-463 5650 or email

Watch a video of Geoff talking about his career and research here:

Research Excellence in Mathematics and Statistics

12 Apr 2013 - 14:59 in Achievement

Research Excellence in Mathematics and Statistics

The TEC's 2012 PBRF research evaluation has confirmed that the School of Mathematics, Statistics and Operations Research has an outstanding group of academic staff that places it firmly among the leaders in mathematical sciences research in New Zealand.

In the two subject areas of Pure and Applied Mathematics, and Statistics, the School's research groups ranked second in the country, alongside Otago in mathematics and behind Auckland in statistics. The PBRF results reveal the strength of mathematical sciences in New Zealand, with Pure and Applied Mathematics the most highly ranked subject, indicating that around 68% of research-active mathematicians in the country produced research that is recognised to be of high quality internationally or nationally in the evaluation period 2006-11.

In particular, SMSOR's mathematics group has the highest proportion, over 45%, of internationally recognised researchers in any subject at any university in New Zealand. The commitment to producing relevant and high quality research of our staff in statistics and operations research has seen the School climb from 4th ranked in 2006 to 2nd in the current evaluation.

The research undertaken covers a wide range of theoretical and applied problems, including the limits of computation and logical reasoning, cosmology and the structure of black holes, statistical analyses of spatial processes, biometrics of NZ flora and fauna, demographic and health statistics, modelling volcanic eruptions, warranty and reliability analysis, the mathematics of discrete structures, algorithms for optimisation, number theory and more.

The School retains its strong commitment to teaching at undergraduate and postgraduate levels, undertaken by lecturers whose research continues to generate vital and fascinating new knowledge.

Research Excellence Awards

17 Dec 2009 - 18:03 in Achievement

Adam Day has been awarded a Postgraduate Research Excellence Award. Adam is undertaking a PhD and is supervised by Professor Rod Downey and already has several publications to his credit.

Professor Geoff Whittle and Dr. Noam Greenberg have been awarded Victoria University Research Excellence Awards. Congratulations to them both.

Professor Steffen Lempp visiting

14 Jul 2009 - 08:44 in Visitor


Professor Steffen Lempp from University of Wisconsin-Madison is visiting the School on sabbatical until December.

Steffen will primarily be working in the area of computability, with his graduate student Dan Turetsky, and MSOR Professor Rod Downey.

Professor Noam Greenberg Becomes Fellow of the Royal Society of New Zealand

17 Nov 2017 - 15:24 in Achievement

Five Victoria University of Wellington researchers, including Professor Noam Greenberg from the School of Mathematics and Statistics, have been made fellows of the Royal Society Te Apārangi, announced today.

Fellows have to be nominated and the nominations are then assessed against a number of criteria by a discipline-based evaluation panel. Victoria academics make up five of the 16 new fellows.


Provost Professor Wendy Larner, who is the incoming president of the Royal Society, says the University is proud to see its leading academics recognised for their contributions in this way.

“It is fantastic to see the Victoria fellows coming from across a range of disciplines. It is a real testament to our research strength across the board.”

The new fellows and their research are as follows.

Professor Noam Greenberg’s research interests include computability theory, algorithmic randomness, reverse mathematics, higher recursion theory, computable model theory, and set theory. Read more here:

Professor Charlotte Macdonald’s research focuses on 19th colonies and empires, New Zealand history, gender and women's history, the cultural history of bodies and modernity, sport and spectating. Read more at:

Professor Mengjie Zhang’s research focuses on artificial intelligence, machine learning, and big data/data mining, particularly evolutionary computation and learning, genetic programming, large scale feature selection and big dimensionality reduction, intelligent computer vision and image processing, planning/scheduling and combinatorial optimisation, and deep learning and transfer learning. Read more about his research here:

Professor Tony Ward’s current research projects include explanation and inquiry in research and practice; normative issues in forensic and clinical practice including restorative justice and therapeutic jurisprudence; and change processes in the psychopathology and forensic/correctional domains. Read more here:

Professor Miriam Meyerhoff’s current research focuses on language variation and change, language contact, Vanuatu languages, and language and gender. Read more here:

Professor Estate Khmaladze awarded I Javakhishvili Medal

31 Jan 2012 - 09:20 in Achievement

Congratulations to Professor Estate Khmaladze who recently gave an invited public lecture for the Tbilisi State University in Georgia. There he was presented with the I. Javakhishvili medal. Javakhishvili is a classical figure in Georgian culture, the author of the monumental "History of Georgia" (usually in 12 volumes). He was one of the founders of Tbilisi State University. The I. Javakhishvili Medal is the highest honour the University can award.

Prof Visser wins James Cook Fellowship

30 Sep 2011 - 09:28 in Achievement

Congratulations to Professor Matt Visser who has been awarded a prestigious 2 year James Cook Fellowship. He is one of 2 winners nationwide in mathematical sciences.

Prof Shirley Pledger's Inaugural Lecture

13 Jun 2011 - 10:49 in Event

Keeping count of our species

Just how bad is the plight of native frogs? How are kakapo or tuatara doing?

A Victoria University professor has used statistical techniques to estimate numbers in animal populations, providing accurate data that are essential to conservation efforts.

Professor Shirley Pledger, an international expert in this area, will explore how statistics has helped conservation in her inaugural professorial lecture at Victoria University next Tuesday.

Her research has built on the 'capture-recapture' method used by scientists.

"Capture-recapture is a technique that provides accurate estimates of animals, including any that remain hidden," says Professor Pledger. "It gives us data so we know what we're dealing with. For instance, do we need to concentrate more on removing predators? Where are numbers strong?"

Using the technique, scientists capture a sample of animals, mark them then release them. Later they capture another sample and use the proportion of marked animals that are recaptured to estimate the total animal population.

Professor Pledger's research has focused on improving the capture-recapture method, trying different models to accurately estimate the numbers of animals.

"Some animals are bold, some shy, some move around. Scientists either surveyed 'closed' populations, which is a kind of snapshot, or 'open' populations over a length of time that saw births, deaths and migrations. The outstanding problem for 20 years or so was that most surveys typically underestimated population sizes - now that's much less of an issue."

As well as working with biologists at Victoria and other institutions in New Zealand, Professor Pledger has strong international connections.

Her statistical work forms part of a US computer package for surveying animal populations.

Vice-Chancellor Professor Pat Walsh says Victoria's inaugural lecture series is an opportunity for professors to provide family, friends, colleagues and the wider community with an insight into their specialist area of study.

"It is also an opportunity for the University to celebrate and acknowledge our valued professors," says Professor Walsh.

Inaugural lecture - Professor Shirley Pledger
'How many animals are in the area? When counting doesn't work'
Tuesday 21 June, 6pm
Hunter Council Chamber, Level 2, Hunter Building
Victoria University, Kelburn

RSVPs essential - please email with 'Pledger' in the subject line or call 04 463 5810

For more information, please contact Professor Shirley Pledger on 04 463 6788 or email

Invitation (click image below for a pdf)


Prof. David Vere-Jones receives the Campbell Award

09 Sep 2009 - 13:38 in Achievement

Congratulations to Prof. David Vere-Jones, who was awarded the Campbell Award by the New Zealand Statistical Association on 2 September 2009.

The purpose of the award is to promote statistics within NZ and to recognise an individual's contribution to the promotion and development of statistics. Throughout his career Prof. Vere-Jones has generously contributed to statistics education at all levels - inside and outside the University - and has an outstanding research and publication record. We are delighted to celebrate with Prof. Vere-Jones the award of this honour.

Proceedings of VUW Logic Conference Published

31 May 2013 - 11:47 in Publication

proc12thALC.jpgThe 12th Asian Logic Conference was held at Victoria in December 2011, a major international conference organised by the School in a highly successful event that attracted over 100 researchers from around the globe. The proceedings of the conference have now been published by World Scientific, in an attractive volume prepared by a team of editors including Rod Downey (chair) and Rob Goldblatt. The book contains 18 research articles by 32 conference participants, covering a wide range of topics of current interest in mathematical and philosophical logic.

Prize Winners 2013

07 Jan 2014 - 16:08 in Achievement

Prize Winners 2013

Congratulations to all the student prize winners for 2013

Prize name Recipient
David Payne Memorial Prize Sarah Kennedy
Geoffery A Rowan Memorial Bursary Tim Caldwell
Health and Disability Intelligence Prize in Statistics Anne Anker
Jenny Whitmarsh Award for Mathematics Lucy Dement and Kimberley Savill
John P Good Memorial Prize Aleksa Vujicic
Macmorran Prize for Mathematics Lennox Kelly
J T Campbell Prize in Statistics Michelle Porter
Rotary Club of Wellington Science Prize - Statistics Longfei Yan
Rotary Club of Wellington Science Prize - Mathematics Aleksa Vujicic
Shayle Searle Prize in Statistics Kate Atkins, Lucy Barnes and Longfei Yan
Vere-Jones Prize for Statistics Jonathan Simons
W H Vaughan Prize for Mathematics Finnian Gray

Postgraduate Study in Mathematical Logic

26 Feb 2014 - 13:31 in Publication

Postgraduate Study in Mathematical Logic

Screen Shot 2014-02-26 at 1.28.02 pm.pngLeading in Research The School of Mathematics, Statistics and Operations Research at Victoria University of Wellington, New Zealand, is home to one of the leading Mathematical Logic research groups in the world. Recent graduates in mathematical logic have won national and international prizes for their thesis research. The group conducts research in all the major fields of mathematical logic:

  • Set Theory
  • Computability Theory
  • Proof Theory
  • Model Theory
  • Complexity Theory

Please see the brochure for more information.

Postdoctoral fellow awarded Stieltjes Prize for 2015

27 Jan 2017 - 15:58 in Achievement

A postdoctoral fellow from Victoria’s School of Mathematics and Statistics has been awarded the Stieltjes Prize for 2015, which recognises the best PhD in Mathematics in the Netherlands.

Rutger Kuyper was awarded the prize for his thesis entitled Computability, Probability and Logic, which examines the interplay between these three subfields of mathematics. His thesis consists of three parts: computability and logic, algorithmic randomness and how logical reasoning can be combined with intuitive probabilistic reasoning.

The Stieltjes Prize has been awarded annually since 1996. Thomas Stieltjes was a nineteenth century Dutch mathematician whose name is associated with a number of mathematical discoveries.

Dr Kuyper completed his PhD at the Radboud University Nijmegen in the Netherlands, under the supervision of Dr Sebastiaan Terwijn. Dr Kuyper’s thesis committee included Victoria’s Professor Rod Downey.

Dr Kuyper’s research at Victoria focuses on computability theory, with an emphasis on algorithmic randomness. He says Victoria is a great place to carry out this research, as there is a strong group of researchers working in algorithmic randomness.

Originally from Haarlem, the Netherlands, Dr Kuyper previously spent a year at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. He plans to spend a year in Wellington before returning to Wisconsin.

Postdoc Fellowship Success

27 Apr 2009 - 17:12 in Achievement

Congratulations to....

  • Selwyn Keng Meng Ng has accepted a van Vleck postdoctoral fellowship to the University of Madison, Wisconsin beginning September, 2009.

19 Sep 2013 - 12:42 in Event

Ian stewart mathematician.jpgThe author of numerous books which have popularised mathematics to general audiences around the world will give a public lecture at Victoria University in early October.

The talk by Professor Ian Stewart, Emeritus Professor of Mathematics at the University of Warwick, is titled Equations that Changed the World and will reveal the extent to which civilisation depends, and has depended, on a small number of important mathematical equations.

Professor Stewart is one of the world’s best-loved writers on maths, having published more than 80 titles.

This includes books such as Does God Play Dice, an exploration of chaos theory, a range of books on mathematical puzzles, curiosities and conundrums, the number one best seller 17 Equations That Changed the World, and collaborations with the science-fiction writers Terry Pratchett and Jack Cohen.

He has won many awards for furthering the public’s understanding of science including, in 2008, the Zeeman Medal of the Institute of Mathematics and its Applications and the London Mathematical Society, the first medal specifically given to a mathematician in the United Kingdom for promoting maths to the public.

Professor Stewart’s Wellington lecture, at 5.30pm on Friday 4 October, will highlight how we rely on equations every day, when using things like mobile phones, the internet, electronic car navigation systems and digital cameras.

Despite being about equations, Professor Stewart says the audience will not need technical knowledge and the lecture will use plenty of pictures.

In 1997, Professor Stewart held the prestigious Forder Lectureship, an arrangement between the London and New Zealand Mathematical Societies under which a prominent United Kingdom mathematician tours New Zealand, giving lectures at major universities, including Victoria. Professor Stewart has also made a number of private visits to New Zealand in recent years.

In addition to giving a public lecture, he will be attending, and speaking at, the New Zealand Association of Mathematics Teachers conference in Wellington.

RSVP not necessary.

Professor Stewart’s lecture will take place on Friday 4 October , 5.30 – 6.30pm in Rutherford House Lecture Theatre 1, Pipitea Campus, Victoria University.

To request an interview with Professor Stewart, contact Communications Manager Katherine Edmond on 04 463 6017, 027 563 6017 or

To find out more about Professor Stewart’s work, visit:


Issued by Victoria University of Wellington Communications & Marketing. Katherine Edmond, Communications Manager, can be contacted by emailing or phoning (04) 463 6016 or 027 563 6017.

Victoria University of Wellington: New Zealand’s most research-intensive university.

PhD completion

14 Jul 2009 - 13:47 in Achievement

Congratulations to Selwyn Keng Meng Ng who has had his PhD "Computability, traceability and beyond" finalised and deposited in the Library

PhD Completions - Celine Cattoen and Petarpa Boonserm

31 Jul 2009 - 13:54 in Achievement

Celine Cattoen has submitted her PhD thesis entitled: "Applied mathematics of space-time and space+time: Problems in general relativity and cosmology". Her supervisor was Professor Matt Visser. She will soon be taking up a postdoctoral position at the University of Alberta in Edmonton, Canada.

Petarpa Boonserm who recently completed her PhD with Professor Matt Visser with a thesis entitled "Rigorous bounds on Transmission, Reflection, and Bogoliubov coefficients". She will be taking up a junior position in the Mathematics Department at Chulalongkorn University, in Bangkok, Thailand.

Congratulations to Celine and Petarpa on their successes!

Peter Donelan speaks to Kim Hill about Fractals

01 Nov 2010 - 14:49 in Event

Peter Donelan did an interview with Kim Hill on Saturday 23 October about fractals and Benoit Mandelbrot. If you'd like to listen go to the Radio New Zealand webpage or click here for the podcast

People's Choice Award for Tim McKenzie

29 Nov 2010 - 16:01 in Achievement

At the recent New Zealand Association of Mathematics and Statistics Graduates conference PhD student, Tim McKenzie (supervisor Professor Rob Goldblatt) won the prize for the peoples choice (this was the favourite talk of the conference voted for by everyone that attended).

Noam Greenberg wins a John Templeton Turing Research Fellowship

29 Jun 2012 - 20:15 in Achievement

Congratulatons to Noam Greenberg who has won a John Templeton Turing Research Fellowship. This Fellowship is one of 5 awarded to comemorate the Alan Turing Centenary Year. The fellowship provides Dr Greenberg with 75,000 UK Pounds to support his research over the next years. Noam was awarded the fellowship in a webcast ceremony at the Turing Centenary Conference at Manchester on Turing's birthday, 23rd June. For more details see

Noam won this award in theme 4: "How should we compute? New Models of Logic and Computation".

Noam Greenberg wins Royal Society honour

08 Oct 2009 - 17:35 in Achievement

Congratulations to Dr Noam Greenberg who has been awarded the Royal Society Hamilton Prize for 2009. This prize is awarded annually by the Royal Society for the encouragement of beginners in scientific or technological research in New Zealand or in the islands of the South Pacific Ocean.

New publication from Noam Greenberg

03 Apr 2014 - 15:58 in Publication

This new volume is edited by MSOR’s Noam Greenberg, together with former MSOR post-doctoral fellow Denis Hirschfeldt and two others. The book, in Cambridge’s Lecture Notes in Logic series, throws light on a broad range of approaches to the theory of computability in uncountable mathematics, a challenging but exciting new filed of research.

New postdoctoral fellow

13 Jul 2009 - 16:30 in Staff

Dr. Asher Kach from the University of Connecticut has joined the school as a post-doctoral fellow. Dr. Kach will be working with Professor Downey and MSOR visitor Professor Steffen Lempp.

New postdoc Dan Turetsky

09 Aug 2010 - 08:20 in Staff

Dan Turetsky joins us as a postdoctoral fellow working with Noam Greenberg and Rod Downey. Dan recently received his PhD from the University of Madison, Wosconsin under the supervision or Steffen Lempp. Dan and Steffen visited us for 3 months in 2009. Dan will be here for 2 years. He works in mathematical logic particularly aspects of computability theory.

Turings Legacy

13 May 2014 - 10:27 in Publication

Turing's Legacy

New book by Prof Rod Downey - Turing's Legacy.

This booklet can also be found online:

Alan Turing was an inspirational figure who is now recognised as a genius of modern mathematics. In addition to leading the Allied forces' code-breaking effort at Bletchley Park in World War II, he proposed the theoretical foundations of modern computing and anticipated developments in areas from information theory to computer chess. His ideas have been extraordinarily influential in modern mathematics and this book traces such developments by bringing together essays by leading experts in logic, artificial intelligence, computability theory and related areas. Together, they give insight into this fascinating man, the development of modern logic, and the history of ideas. The articles within cover a diverse selection of topics, such as the development of formal proof, differing views on the Church–Turing thesis, the development of combinatorial group theory, and Turing's work on randomness which foresaw the ideas of algorithmic randomness that would emerge many years later.


New book from Prof Rod Downey

10 Feb 2014 - 12:30 in Publication

New book from Prof Rod Downey and Michael Fellows.

Screen Shot 2014-02-10 at 12.28.13 pm.png

The field of parameterized complexity/multivariate complexity algorithmics is an exciting and vibrant part of theoretical computer science, responding to the vital need for efficient algorithms in modern society.

This comprehensive and self-contained textbook presents an accessible overview of the state of the art of multivariate algorithmics and complexity. Increasingly, multivariate algorithmics is having significant practical impact in many application domains, with even more developments on the horizon. The text describes how the multivariate framework allows an extended dialog with a problem, enabling the reader who masters the complexity issues under discussion to use the positive and negative toolkits in their own research.

Topics and features: describes many of the standard algorithmic techniques available for establishing parametric tractability; reviews the classical hardness classes; explores the various limitations and relaxations of the methods; showcases the powerful new lower bound techniques; examines various different algorithmic solutions to the same problems, highlighting the insights to be gained from each approach; demonstrates how complexity methods and ideas have evolved over the past 25 years.

New book by Downey and Hirschfeldt

01 Dec 2010 - 15:21 in Publication

Rodney G. Downey and Denis R. Hirschfeldt: 'Algorithmic Randomness and Complexity' (Springer, November 2010)

One of the most eagerly anticipated books for some years has finally been published. It is the first book in the new CiE book series "Theory and Applications of Computability". This mammoth work is a book destined to be a standard reference work in the field for many years.

For ordering details see the Springer webpage or Amazon.

Here is the Springer page for the series.

New VUW Statistical Consultant Appointed

08 Jan 2010 - 15:02 in Staff

Dr. Dalice Sim has accepted the post of statistical consultant and will begin work on 1 March 2010. Her office will be Cotton 533.

She will be available to staff and graduate students of the university for statistical consultation on research topics.

See also the Statistical Consulting Webpage.

New SMSOR School Website

12 May 2010 - 10:01 in Event

The School of Mathematics, Statistics and Operations Research has a new look website.

Prospective students, and students planning the next steps in their degrees, should look at pages under the "Study" tab - and should keep an eye on the Scholarships page for funding opportunities for further study.

Prospective Masters and PhD students should have a look at the list of possible thesis topics and supervisors.

Currently enrolled students can find course homepages for courses that are running now under the "Current Students" tab.

Staff and graduate students needing statistical advice can contact the statistical consultant, Dalice Sim. A link to further information is in the "Information About..." set of links on the right hand side of the page.

New Relationship with National Centre for Statistical Ecology (UK)

19 Jan 2012 - 15:41 in Partnership

Professor Shirley Pledger has recently been honoured by an appointment as an International Member of the National Centre for Statistical Ecology (NCSE) in the UK. Following that appointment, the NCSE and MSOR have signed an agreement to encourage the exchange of postdoctoral fellows and graduate students to facilitate further cooperation and collaboration in the area of statistical ecology.

New Professor Explores Multiplicity of Mathematics

04 Apr 2016 - 16:25 in Research

The freezing of sea ice and exploding rocks in volcanoes may not sound like things a mathematician would worry about, but a newly-appointed Professor says mathematics has taken him on a 40-year academic journey of discovery.Mark.jpg

As part of his inaugural lecture held 5 April 2016 to mark his professorial promotion, Victoria University of Wellington Professor Mark McGuiness will shed light on some of the interesting puzzles he has faced during his career.

“I studied physics and worked my way through to applied and industrial mathematics,” says Professor McGuinness. “I’ve had the good fortune to work on a range of problems, including how to cook crispy cereals, how fast sea ice freezes, and why volcanic eruptions are sometimes very lumpy.”

During the lecture Professor McGuinness will outline how mathematics provided the tools to solve these problems.

In July, Professor McGuinness is codirecting Mathematics in Industry New Zealand 2016, a forum for researchers to look at applying mathematics, statistics, physics and engineering principles to problems brought by local businesses and industry.

From a young age he was interested in solving puzzles and problems, says Professor McGuinness.

“This curiosity continues to drive my research today. It’s really rewarding brainstorming and then solving a problem. I’d encourage anyone with an interest in problem solving to consider mathematics in their studies or as a career.”

New MSOR Postdoctoral Researchers

13 Mar 2013 - 10:47 in Staff

The School is delighted to welcome three new postdoctoral researchers.

Dr Alexander Melnikov received his two Phd's late 2012; one from Novosibirsk under the direction of Professor Sergei Goncharov, and the other from Auckland under the direction of Andre Nies and Bhakhadyr Khoussainov. He works in computability theory, specializing in computable algebra and analysis. He is here for a year on a postdoctoral fellowship to work with Professor Downey and Associate Professor Greenberg (and Dr Day when he arrives). In 2014 he will begin a 2 year fellowship at the University of California Berkeley.

Tanya Gvozdeva received her PhD from Auckland University in 2012 under the direction of Arkadii Slinko. She works in combinatorics and the mathematics of social choice. She is here for the year as a teaching fellow. She will accmpany Melnikov to Berkeley in 2014.

Rong Chen is a talented young matroid theorist who has a permanent position at Fuzhou University in China. She has been awarded a Fellowship from the Chinese government to spend one year visiting Victoria University and work with the matroid group here.

New Degree Programme Student Wins Scholarship

14 Jun 2016 - 15:32 in Achievement

A Victoria University student who will be among the first people in New Zealand to graduate in actuarial science has been awarded the 2016 Cigna Actuarial Scholarship.

Please refer to this link for full story:

New Publications

27 Apr 2009 - 16:32 in Publication

Two new books have been published by members of the School:

  • "Statistical Methods for Demography and Life Insurance" by Estate Khmaladze
    Moscow: URSS, 2009.

  • "The Kerr spacetime: Rotating black holes in general relativity."
    Edited by: David Wiltshire, Matt Visser, Susan Scott. Chapters by: Matt Visser, Roy Kerr, Roger Penrose, Brandon Carter, David Robinson, Ben Lewis and Susan Scott, Remo Ruffini, Fulvio Melia, Andrew Fabian and Giovanni Miniutti, Maurice van Putten, Steve Carlip, Gary Horowitz. ISBN: 9780521885126 [22 January 2009] Cambridge University Press.
    see also:

  • ... and an honourable mention in Nature Physics Research Highlights (April 2009) for a paper in Phys Rev D. by Gabriel Abreu and Matt Visser
    "It's feasible, in quantum physics, to have a large negative energy density at a point - and with this comes all sorts of weird possibilities such as traversable wormholes and time machines. Fortunately, to stop things getting out of hand, there are constraints on average or total energy over a volume or line, such as that expressed in the 'quantum interest conjecture': overall, the energy density must be positive; negative energy density somewhere must be more than compensated for by positive energy density elsewhere. For the example of energy pulses, this means that the amount of negative energy in a pulse is constrained to be more than balanced by a larger positive-energy pulse; the time interval between such pulses is also restricted, according to the conjecture. The net energy of the two pulses, necessarily positive, is the 'quantum interest'. The quantum interest conjecture has already been proved in (1 + 1) Minkowski space, but now Gabriel Abreu and Matt Visser have taken it into more dimensions. By proving a variant of Simon's theorem for the biharmonic Schördinger equation, they have reformulated the conjecture for (3 + 1) Minkowski space. In fact, the result can be generalized to any Minkowski space that has an even number of dimensions."

NZ Statistics Assn Student Talk Prize

03 Dec 2012 - 14:02 in Achievement

Congratulations to Statistics PhD student Darcy Webber, who was co-recipient of the student prize for best student presentation at the New Zealand Statistical Association meeting 29-30 November 2012. Darcy shares the award with Brigid Betz-Stablein from Massey University.

NZSTM Teaching Fellow at SMSOR

17 Feb 2009 - 11:50 in Administrative

Throughout 2009 the School of Mathematics, Statistics and Operations research will be hosting one of this year's New Zealand Science, Technology and Mathematics Teaching Fellows. Frank Kane, Head of Mathematics at Wellington's Onslow College was awarded one of the prestigious fellowships in order answer the question "Where is this stuff used?". He will explore ways in which the calculus component of higher secondary mathematics is used in applications in the wider world and how its study builds at university level.


Frank has already attended the Mathematics in Industry Study Group in Wollongong, Australia, where he was part of a team looking at modelling the slumping of steel rolls. During the year he will attend courses in applied mathematics and operations research at Victoria, talk to applied mathematicians and scientists here and at other institutions in the Wellington region and pursue some case studies. Frank's primary contact in MSOR is Peter Donelan. If you would like to find out how the project is progressing then read Frank's blog.

NZSA Prize Winners

28 Jan 2014 - 09:24 in Achievement

NZSA Prize Winners

DSC05681 shirley  winning students.JPG

Victoria University Statistics student's Daniel Fernandez and Roy Costilla win Harmonic sponsored NZSA Student Prize.

For the full article please see the Harmonic Website.

NZMASP Conference 2015

14 Dec 2015 - 16:45 in Event

The New Zealand Mathematics and Statistics Postgraduate Conference (NZMASP), run this year by the University of Waikato in Taupo, is an annual event that provides students with the chance to present their research in a relaxed and supportive environment. NZMASP also enables students to socialize with other postgraduates from all corners of the country. This year, 12 students from Victoria University attended and presented a 20 minute presentation each about our various research topics in Statistics, Pure and Applied Mathematics. These talks were all well received however special mention must go to Deloshan Narawajan who won best overall talk and Roy Costilla who won best statistical talk.

Included in the conference was an excursion which allowed us to see the sights of Taupo. Some of us went to Huka falls before swimming in the lake, which was freezing, before the conference dinner. Overall I think we all enjoyed the conference and we are looking forward to next year held by Otago University.

Author: Emma Greenbank; Photo taken by: Nick Lim

NZMASP Conference 2015.jpg

NIWA Wellington Science and Technology Fair

12 Sep 2014 - 15:52 in Achievement

The School warmly congratulates the winners of this year's prize for the most imaginative and effective use of mathematics or statistics in a project at the Fair, held at Victoria University in late August. The winners of the special prize, sponsored by MSOR, were Andrew Tang and Ollie Whyte, year 10 students at Scots College. Their project was entitled “The Electrolyte Challenge”. This year’s judge, Dimitrios Mitsotakis described the presentation as excellent.

In explaining why the prize was awarded for this project, Dimitrios noted, "The extensive use of statistics was very impressive. Andrew and Ollie kept a detailed log of their experiments and their results. Their notes (lab report) were detailed like a book. The experimental data were analyzed with the use of statistics. The candidates conducted statistical research comparing different scenarios and distributions while they presented their results using very well prepared graphs and tables. I think the analytical way of thinking and the professionalism of the students were outstanding."

More Maths Marsden Magic

27 Nov 2014 - 15:01 in Research

Two mathematicians are among the 25 Victoria academics to be awarded Marsden Fund research grants in the 2014 round.

Dimitrios Mitsotakis has been awarded a Fast Start grant (for early career researchers). His project is entitled "Numerical solution of time-dependent multi-dimensional nonlinear dispersive wave equations with applications to coastal hydrodynamics”. He explains the goal of the project as follows. The mathematical modeling of water waves continues to attract great interest in the scientific community, including mathematics, physics, and engineering. Models that describe water waves are systems of nonlinear partial differential equations. Computing the solutions of these systems requires efficient and accurate numerical methods. Our objective is to develop a theoretical and computational research framework through which we will systematically address wave systems. The new tools will improve the speed and the accuracy of tsunami early-warning systems, which are critical for mitigating the devastating effects of tsunamis.

Matt Visser is a world-renowned expert on the theory of gravitation. This will be his fourth Marsden project and it concerns "The final stages of the Hawking evaporation of black holes”. Stephen Hawking predicted in 1974 that black holes are not entirely black - they emit radiation and slowly evaporate due to subtle quantum effects. The final stages of this process, when the black hole has become relatively small, continue to generate heated debate and confusion among experts, even after 40 years of intensive research. Matt plans a renewed attack on this problem, based on a three-fold approach: investigating the types of horizon that can occur and their implications for the internal structure of black holes, investigating the quantum energy conditions and the properties of any resulting spacetime singularities, and finally a careful analysis of both the differences and similarities between black-hole and ordinary thermodynamics.

These projects bring to 34 the number of Marsden grants on which Victoria mathematicians and statisticians have been principal investigators, in the 20 years the Fund has been running. The total value of those grants is in excess $12.5M. This remarkable ongoing record places the School of Mathematics, Statistics and Operations Research at the forefront of Victoria’s leading research standing in New Zealand.

Measuring uncertainty in the sea

11 Dec 2015 - 10:41 in Interesting

What started out as a simple love of fishing for a Victoria University of Wellington researcher has led to a complex mathematical study in measuring fish populations.

Determining the size of fish stocks is important for ensuring sustainable commercial operations, but also difficult to do with past models prone to bias or oversimplification.

Darcy Webber has developed statistical methods and modelling techniques which more accurately reflect a current environment or situation. Ironically, this can include admitting uncertainty, which is subsequently factored into the model.

“The models aim to make sense of many different sources of information, including catch estimates, fishing intensity, growth and maturity rates, and tagging, genetic, environmental and economic data,” says Darcy.

“There is uncertainty associated with all this information, which can arise due to natural variations, measurement error or model uncertainty.”

According to Darcy, developing models that reflect this uncertainty is important so that management decisions are not made on rigid estimates.

While fish stocks around some Asia-Pacific nations are being exploited to below acceptable levels, Darcy says New Zealand is managing its fish resources fairly well, but it’s important to remain vigilant.

“It’s important to be innovative with our management techniques to ensure we maintain sustainable fish stocks, despite increasing pressure from fishing, pollution and climate change.

“Fisheries are worth more than $1.5 billion per year to our economy and New Zealand’s Exclusive Economic Zone spans four million square kilometres, making it the fourth largest in the world.

“New Zealand’s marine natural resources are of great value, but a connection to the sea is also something deeply ingrained in our culture.”

Darcy will be graduating from Victoria University of Wellington this month with a PhD in statistics and is now applying his mathematical skills to his own consulting business.

Although a relative late starter with statistics, he notes the wide range of opportunities for those competent in mathematics and computer programming.

“Almost anyone can do some research and write a report. The skill that is in highest demand is the ability to sit down and make sense of data. Statistics and computer science provide a solid foundation for developing this ability.”

For more information contact Darcy Webber at


Matt Visser to speak at Te Papa for International Year of Astronomy

08 May 2009 - 17:27 in Event

As part of the IYA (International Year of Astronomy) Matt will give a talk on "Dark matter, dark energy, and the accelerating universe" at Te Papa, Soundings Theatre on Sunday May 24 at 12 noon. He will then lead a Cafe Scientifique style session in the coffee bar at te Papa shortly after.

This talk is part of an event which is being run by the Royal Astronomical Society and is part of the Telescope Roadshow which is supported by the Wellington Astronomical Society.

Abstract: What are "dark matter", and "dark energy", and why do most cosmologists believe in them? Are there alternatives? Are the alternatives any better?

Matroids - Seminars and a new postdoc

11 Sep 2009 - 15:22 in Administrative

The school holds a regular informal seminar series on matroid theory. Anyone interested in participating should contact Prof Geoff Whittle.

And also a warm welcome to our new Post Doc Carolyn Chun. Carolyn is funded by Geoff Whittle's Marsden Grant and will be working on problems in matroid representation theory.

Maths Competition

05 May 2014 - 11:05 in Event

Screen Shot 2014-05-05 at 11.03.31 am.png
Winners - Wellington College

Nearly a hundred mathematicians-in-the-making from Wellington high schools were put to the test this week as they competed in a day-long maths competition at Victoria University.

Run jointly by the School of Mathematics, Statistics and Operations Research and the Wellington Mathematics Association, the competition gave students a chance to work on mathematical problems that are quite different from those studied in school.

Dr Dillon Mayhew, a senior lecturer in the School of Mathematics, Statistics and Operations Research, says students often get the impression that mathematics is all about applying rules. “An event like this shows them that mathematics requires creativity and imagination as well as technical ability. One aspect of the competition is to encourage the participants to think about studying mathematics at university.”

In the morning, teams were quizzed with shorter questions, similar to those posed in the International Mathematical Olympiad. The dynamic changed in the afternoon when students were presented with a problem in industrial optimisation.

“The teams were challenged to find the best possible location for a central warehouse, taking into account the location of subsidiary warehouses and the number of goods being transferred between them,” explains Dr Mayhew.

The judging panel was impressed with the efforts of all the teams, but three were singled out—a Wellington College team came first, Tawa College took second, and a team from Onslow College placed third. Competitors were from seven different high schools throughout the Wellington region.

“The competition is the first collaboration between Victoria and the Wellington Mathematics Association, but we intend it to become an annual event.”

To get a feeling for the types of questions posed, try the following: At a party, some people shake hands. Let n be the number of people who shake hands with an odd number of people. Why is n even?

Maths Book Comes Home

31 May 2011 - 09:42 in Interesting

A book won as a maths prize at Victoria University in 1944 has come home after it was spotted at a charity bookshop in England.

A volunteer at the Oxfam bookshop in Thame, Oxfordshire found the book among others donated from the estate of Professor John Ziman, who grew up in Hamilton and later studied at Victoria. The volunteer contacted the University and posted the book back to New Zealand.

As a student at what was then Victoria College, Professor Ziman won the MacMorran Prize, awarded annually to the best second-year mathematics student. He used the prize money to buy The Development of Mathematics by E T Bell, the book that turned up 67 years later.

Professor Megan Clark, Head of the School of Mathematics, Statistics and Operations Research says that she was delighted when she was contacted about the book.

"It was such a surprise to hear from the bookshop on the other side of the world and I'm delighted they got in touch to see if we would like the book for our archives. John Ziman was well-known in the UK as a physicist and wrote a number of groundbreaking books. What's more, one of our current academics, Professor Rob Goldblatt is one of his descendants so it really feels like the book has come home," says Professor Clark.

Professor Ziman, a physicist and philosopher, was interested in the role science played in politics and society.

As well as a leading career in Physics, Professor Ziman wrote extensively on how scientific research and innovation is affected by social, political and cultural values, and how science, in turn, affects society. He also argued strongly for scientists to have a greater sense of social responsibility.

After completing his PhD in mathematics and physics at Oxford, Professor Ziman lectured at Oxford and Cambridge universities. He was later a Visiting Professor at the University of California, Berkley and Professor at Bristol University. In 1967, he was elected to the Royal Society, London.

He was awarded an Honorary Doctor of Science degree by Victoria University in 1985.

The photos below are of Felix Barber, a third year student majoring in both mathematics and physics, who is the current holder of the MacMorran prize for Mathematics.

23692 GCK0046.jpeg 23692 GCK0048.jpeg

Mathematician receives Humboldt Prize

07 Dec 2016 - 12:25 in Achievement

Victoria University Professor of Mathematics Rod Downey has received a distinguished Humboldt Research Award for his academic contributions.

Rod.jpgGranted annually by the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation in Germany, the award recognises a researcher's achievements to date and is given to academics whose fundamental discoveries, new theories or insights have had a significant impact and who are expected to continue producing cutting-edge achievements in the future. It is valued at EUR 60,000 (NZD $90,000).

Professor Downey from Victoria’s School of Mathematics and Statistics is a leading expert in theory of computation, particularly the relationship between algebraic and descriptive complexity versus algorithmic complexity.

Professor Downey is the third New Zealander to receive the award, but the first mathematician from New Zealand and the first from Victoria University.

Just last month Professor Downey was awarded his seventh Marsden Fund grant as Principal Investigator. This puts him among an elite group of researchers to consistently win funding over many years.

“Professor Downey is a mathematical pioneer whose work has shaped research in a fundamentally important field—determining the limits of what is computable, the effectiveness of algorithms and clarifying our notion of what is random as opposed to deterministic,” says Dr Peter Donelan, Head of Victoria’s School of Mathematics and Statistics.

“Having someone of Professor Downey’s calibre at the University has made it a magnet for some of the finest minds around the world, and it is a fitting acknowledgement that he joins some of the great names of mathematics of the last 50 years in being a Humboldt Award recipient.”

Professor Downey plans to visit Germany to work with colleagues from Heidelberg University who nominated him for the award.

Next year several events are being held to celebrate Professor Downey’s 60th birthday, including a symposium in Wellington and a month-long programme Singapore.

Mathematical Sciences jobs ranked most satisfying

29 Apr 2015 - 15:35 in Interesting


For the second year in a row Actuary, Mathematician and Statistician have been ranked among the 4 top careers in an annual survey run by the US company CareerCast.

Topping a list of 200, the survey results rank Actuary 1st, Mathematician 3rd and Statistician 4th. Audiologist and Biological Engineer complete the top five, and Data Scientist ranked 6th.

The 2014 survey also saw Actuary, Mathematician and Statistician in the top four jobs.

The survey uses a methodology based on environment, income, hiring outlook and stress, and has been running for 27 years.

Dr Peter Donelan, Head of the School of Mathematics and Statistics at Victoria University, says the results highlight the value of studying mathematical sciences.

“It may come as a surprise to them, but our maths and statistics students are among the most employable of university graduates. This survey confirms that the careers our students move on to are both satisfying and provide great opportunities. If you are a parent and your daughter or son loves maths at school, tell them to stick at it—they have a skill that is in great demand.”

The survey report points out that organisations are increasingly focused on data retention and analytics, with the job growth for both Actuary and Statistician predicted to rise by 25 percent by 2022.

The top ranked career, Actuary, interprets statistics to determine probabilities of accidents, sickness, and death, or uncertainty in financial markets, investments and asset management.

In 2015 the School of Mathematics and Statistics launched a new undergraduate major in Actuarial Science in conjunction with School of Economics and Finance, which will set graduates up to enter the Actuary profession.

Mathematical Art

13 Aug 2013 - 10:05 in Interesting

Mathematical Art

diamond222 copy.jpg

Victoria graduate Dr Rhiannon Hall makes interesting origami Mathematical Art as a hobby.

One of her creations has been used in the school's new line of art that has been placed around the school.

Rhiannon completed her undergraduate degree at Victoria University of Wellington, as well as a MSc with Prof Geoff Whittle in the School of Mathematics, Statistics and Operations Research.

She is now a lecturer at Brunel University, London. Her students and fellow staff members find her creations intriguing and attractive. She has put together a short document explaining some of the models which can be viewed here.

Maths Jobs are best!

06 Apr 2009 - 17:37 in Interesting

In this article from the Wall St Journal it is reported that the best jobs in the US are mathematician, actuary, statistician.

"Nineteen years ago, Jennifer Courter set out on a career path that has since provided her with a steady stream of lucrative, low-stress jobs. Now, her occupation -- mathematician -- has landed at the top spot on a new study ranking the best and worst jobs in the U.S..." Read more

Master of Applied Statistics 2015

26 Feb 2014 - 13:22 in Publication

Master of Applied Statistics 2015

Screen Shot 2014-10-24 at 10.39.06 AM.png

There is a growing national and international demand in government, the social and physical sciences, business and finance for statistics and quantitative analysis, which are required for interpretation of the great variety and quantity of data generated in the information age.

The Master of Applied Statistics is designed to train students in a range of advanced statistical techniques and to provide them with an appreciation of the variety of work undertaken by professional statisticians.

This one-year taught Master’s programme can be completed in three trimesters (March–June, July–Oct, Nov–Feb) full time or up to three years part time. Normally, students start the programme either in March or in July. Enrolments in November are also possible. Graduates of the programme will have developed strong research, analytical and communication skills.

Programme of Study

The programme consists of two components: course work and practical skills development.

The unique practical component, which combines work placement in a relevant government department or business with consultancy training, makes this a world leading Applied Statistics Master’s programme. Work placements are usually during the summer trimester, Nov–Feb.

A list of courses, along with more detailed information, can be found in the Postgraduate Prospectus.

The Master of Applied Statistics brochure gives more information about the programme.


Prospective students should seek advice from the Programme Contact before enrolling.

Entry requirements: An undergraduate degree in a relevant quantitative subject with a good academic performance and acceptance as a candidate by the Head of School.

Domestic students may enrol online.

International students should apply here.

Programme Contact

Dr. Ivy (I-Ming) Liu

Marsden Success

25 Oct 2012 - 10:11 in Achievement

Congratulations to Drs Richard Arnold and I-Ming Liu along with Professors Shirley Pledger and Rod Downey who have been awarded Marsden grants. The team of Arnold, Liu and Pledger have been awarded the 3-year grant for their project in Applied Statistics, "Cluster Analysis for Ordinal Categorical Data", while Professor Downey is awarded the grant for his project on "Algorithmic Randomness, Computation and Complexity".

MSOR students win Graduate Student Prizes

05 Dec 2011 - 10:32 in Achievement

At the recent NZ Postgraduate Student Conference in Mathematics and Statistics the prize for best pure maths talk went to Ben Clark. Melissa Welsh won the prize for the best applied mathematics talk. Our congratulations to them on their achievement.

Both Ben and Melissa are PhD students in the School. This conference was organised by MSOR this year, led by PhD student Michael Snook.

MSOR enters arrangement with SISSA, Trieste

22 Nov 2010 - 19:24 in Event

The School has entered into an agreement with the Scuola Internazionale Superiore Di Studi Avanzati (SISSA) in Trieste, Italy to encourage the exchange of staff, researchers and graduate students. This builds on the collaborative research relationship that Professor Matt Visser has long had with SISSA.

MSOR Summer Scholar wins Poster Prize

07 Apr 2011 - 11:45 in Achievement

Congratulations to Kane O'Donnell, one of the School's Summer research scholars who completed a project under the supervision of Prof Matt Visser over the summer.Kane won the prize for the poster with most impact for his poster : "Velocity addition in special relativity"resulting from this work.

He is also the coauthor (with Prof Visser) of the article "Elementary analysis of the special relativistic combination of velocities, Wigner rotation, and Thomas precession".

MSOR Researcher awarded Rutherford Discovery Fellowship

02 Oct 2013 - 13:34 in Achievement

Victoria University researchers have scooped three of this year’s Rutherford Discovery Fellowships. One of them being our very own Dr Dillon Mayhew.

dillon mayhew 2013.jpg

Dr Dillon Mayhew is a Senior Lecturer in Victoria University's School of Mathematics, Statistics and Operations Research.

After completing undergraduate studies at Victoria, he received a prestigious Commonwealth Scholarship to complete a PhD in mathematics at the University of Oxford.

The Rutherford Discovery Fellowship will enable Dr Mayhew to continue his mathematics research into matroid and model theory, which he describes as 'computer-age geometry' and has applications in computer science.

He is also a talented musician and, in his spare time, plays French horn in the Wellington Orchestra. Dr Mayhew is currently visiting the United States, where he is working with colleagues in the mathematics department at Princeton University.

The Rutherford Discovery Fellowships support New Zealand’s most talented early- to mid-career researchers by providing financial support of $800,000 over a five-year period to investigate a particular research topic, and help them further their career in New Zealand.

The three Victoria University researchers are Dr Dillon Mayhew, who will continue his mathematics research in the field of matroids and model theory, Dr Robert McKay for the Antarctic ice Sheet-Southern Ocean interactions during greenhouse worlds of the past 23 million years – and consequences for New Zealand climate, and Dr Elizabeth Stanley who will explore the changing status of human rights in New Zealand.

Victoria University Vice-Chancellor Professor Pat Walsh says the Fellowship awards are a significant achievement for the researchers involved. "These awards, set up by the Government in 2010, will allow some of our best and brightest researchers achieve their potential to make an enormous contribution to New Zealand.

"I am delighted and proud that three of the ten Fellowships have been awarded to Victoria University researchers this year. It is immensely satisfying to see those who have dedicated their career to discovery and world-leading research being supported and recognised in this way."

The fellowships are administered by the Royal Society of New Zealand.

MSOR Phd Student accepts postdoctoral fellowship

21 Apr 2009 - 13:07 in Achievement

PhD student Keng Meng (Selwyn), Ng has accepted a van Vleck postdoctoral fellowship to the University of Wisconsin-Madison beginning September, 2009. Selwyn has recently completed his PhD Thesis, "Computability, Traceability and Beyond". He studied under Professor Rod Downey. Congratulations Selwyn!

MSOR PhD graduate appointed lecturer at USP

30 May 2013 - 11:20 in Achievement

Our congratulations to MSOR PhD graduate Sione Paea, who has been appointed to a lectureship in Mathematics at the University of the South Pacific in Fiji. Sione did his PhD developing a multiscale simulation method for the growth of nanocrystals in solution. He was supervised by Shaun Hendy (Physics and McDiarmid Inst, and winner of the 2012 Prime Minister’s Science Media Communication Prize) and Mark McGuinness. Sione also has a Masters in Mathematics, awarded with Merit, modelling the pyrolysis of coal, under the supervision of Mark McGuinness


MSOR Marsden Success

05 Oct 2010 - 14:05 in Achievement

Staff in the School have once again been very successful in the latest Marsden round. Our congratulations to Prof Geoff Whittle, Dr Hung Pham (who won a Fast Start grant) and to Prof Rod Downey who has been awarded a one year extension to an existing grant.

MSOR Lecture on Erupting Rocks and Dusts - at Waikato University

23 Apr 2013 - 09:40 in Event

MSOR Associate Professor Mark McGuinness will deliver one of the 10x10 Lecture Series presentations on "Erupting Rocks and Dusts" at the University of Waikato on 22 May. The 10x10 Lectures are a series of ten speakers at ten locations in ten months, where New Zealand mathematicians talk about their work and how they are helping to find solutions to today’s problems.

More details can be found at

MOU signed

29 Jun 2011 - 15:36 in Partnership

The School has signed a Memorandum of Understanding with Statistics New Zealand to strengthen and maintain a partnership. This will promote official statistics and provide summer internships for School statistics students.


msor snz mou.jpeg
Government Statistician Geoff Bascand signs the MOU with Head of School, Megan Clark.

MINZ 2016

09 Mar 2016 - 16:10 in Event

Mathematics in Industry New Zealand 2016

4-8 July 2016, at Victoria University of Welington.

Co-Director: Prof Mark McGuinness

Please come and join us at Victoria University of Wellington to solve interesting and vital industry challenges to help New Zealand businesses innovate and grow. The meeting is centered around a number of brainstorming problem-solving working groups, applying mathematics, statistics, physics and engineering principles to real problems brought by local businesses and industry.

More soon on the actual problems for this year. Free registration.

To express interest, contact

For more information please click on this link MINZ 2016, or look at the website

There are some fascinating comments about these Study Groups on the YouTube clip

Promising numbers at annual Maths Challenge

17 Apr 2015 - 10:50 in Event

MATH Challenge.png

Over a hundred high school students were put to the test this week during a day-long maths competition at Victoria University.

Run jointly by the School of Mathematics, Statistics and Operations Research and the Wellington Mathematics Association, the competition gave students from ten schools around the Wellington region the chance to work on challenging mathematical problems.

“It’s a great, fun event with plenty of prizes and challenges. Students travelled from as far as Paraparaumu to participate”, says organiser and School Liaison Rebecca Burke.

Students were quizzed with short Olympiad-style questions in the morning, followed by a large multifaceted problem in the afternoon.

Wellington College were named winners, ahead of Onslow College and another team from Wellington College who placed second equal.

Impressed with the efforts of all the teams, the judging panel—consisting of academics and postgraduates led by one of the School’s Rutherford Discovery Fellows, Dillon Mayhew—also named Chilton Saint James School as Most Consistent, and Scots College as the best Team Player.

The event, first run in 2014, aims to bridge the gap between high school students and University, as well as provide an opportunity to hear from graduate students and learn what Victoria’s maths programmes offer.

Rebecca hopes the event will continue to run annually and grow bigger.

“Despite being held during school holidays we received a great turn out, with bigger numbers than last year. There is a demand for this kind of event and it would be great to reach out to even more College students.”

Learning and Teaching Grant for Peter Donelan

12 Mar 2010 - 16:02 in Achievement

Congratulations to Dr Peter Donelan who is leading a team which has won one of the inaugural Learning and Teaching Grants for their project: 'Maple TA: A testing and learning tool for mathematics'.

The proposal is for the School to pilot use of an online learning, testing and assessment tool, Maple TA ( This is produced by Maplesoft who are responsible for the computer algebra system Maple that is widely used around the world. It enables lecturers and course coordinators to develop question banks that provide practice and assessment (including self-assessment) opportunities for students.

Laurent Bienvenu has won the Gilles Kahn Specif prize

16 Dec 2008 - 13:19 in Achievement

Congratulations to Laurent Bienvenu, one of Rod Downey's current postdocs, who has won the Gilles Kahn Specif prize for the best thesis in computer science in France. It is several thousand Euros.

Jones Medal awarded to Prof Rob Goldblatt

22 Nov 2012 - 15:03 in Achievement

Congratulations to Prof Rob Goldblatt who has won the 2012 Jones Medal, the mathematical sciences award for lifetime achievement, awarded every two years. Prof Rob Goldblatt FRSNZ won the award for his world-leading research in modal logic and category theory.

Jonathan Crook PhD completion

07 Feb 2011 - 09:57 in Research

Congratulations to Jonathan Crook on completing his Phd on "Ice growth and platelet crystals in Antarctica". Jonathan completed his PhD under the supervision of Dr Mark McGuinness.

Success and visitors to the General Relativity Group

12 Jan 2009 - 16:47 in Achievement

  1. Matt Visser has won a FQXi mini grant [US$10,000] to bring overseas researchers to New Zealand to give technical seminars. For more details see here.

  2. Petarpa Boonserm and Matt Visser have published article that has now been selected for inclusion in "IOP Select". See and more specifically here for more details.

    This article, "Transmission probabilities and the Miller–Good transformation" was published in the Journal of Physics: Mathematical and Theoretical 42 No 4 (30 January 2009) 045301.

  3. Three visitors coming to the general relativity group:
    • Dr Thomas Sotiriou, postdoc at the University of Maryland. (28 Jan to 19 Feb)
    • Dr Silke Weinfurtner, postdoc at the University of British Columbia. (28 Jan to 19 Feb)
    • Gil Jannes, graduate student at the Astrophysics Institute of Andalusia, Granada, Spain (18 Feb to 26 Mar)
    These visitors will all be presenting technical seminars (details TBA) on aspects of general relativity.

Irene Pestov Scholarship

19 Sep 2013 - 09:55 in Achievement

Screen Shot 2013-09-19 at 9.51.19 AM.pngThe Irene Pestov Memorial Scholarship has been set up by Vladimir, Xenia and Sviatoslav (Slava) Pestov in memory of their late wife and mother Irene Pestov, who completed her PhD in Mathematics at Victoria between 1993 and 1996.

The scholarship aims to assist female students in the area of mathematical sciences or geosciences to complete their MSc or PhD thesis, by helping to extend enrolment in the final months of writing up their thesis.

Dr. Irene Pestov (1956–2013) completed her PhD studies under the joint supervision of Dr Mark McGuiness (Victoria University) and Dr Graham Weir (Industrial Research Limited), supported by the Victoria University Postgraduate Scholarship.

Born in Eastern Siberia, Irene went on to obtain a degree in Applied Mathematics from Tomsk State University. After moving to New Zealand with her family and successfully defending her thesis in October 1996, Irene held a postdoctoral position in Sendai, Japan. From 1999 she worked as a research scientist at the Australian Geological Survey in Canberra (later her division was transferred to the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry, Australia).

Subsequent career moves saw Irene working as a research scientist in civil engineering at the University of Ottawa, Canada, then as an independent engineering consultant, and, from 2007, a senior research scientist at the Centre for Operational Research and Analysis (CORA) of the Defence Research and Development Canada (DRDC) in Ottawa. Irene’s research output was extensive and varied, reflecting her multidimensional career path.

In her Victoria thesis, Irene showed how a vapour-liquid counterflow in geothermal systems can evolve to form two layered structures, one being water-dominated and the other steam-dominated.

While working in Australia, Irene proved conclusively that thermal convestion is the most important transport mechanism in most of the Great Artesian Basin. This is considered by some researchers to be her most significant discovery. At CORA-DRDC, Canada, Irene developed a net- enabled approach to Arctic search and rescue, with a potential to save lives.

Irene’s hope and one of her last wishes was that this scholarship would aid female scientists to persevere in the face of difficulty in order to complete their graduate studies.

Radio NZ: Interview "Our Changing World"

27 Jan 2017 - 16:36 in Interesting

Mark McGuinness was approached by Alison Ballance of Radio New Zealand to talk about his research on Cooking Crispy Cereals and the Freezing of Antarctic Sea Ice, in a short interview that was broadcast on “Our Changing World” on Thursday 13 October 2016 at 9:05pm.

Listen in if you would to find out how little encouragement Mark needs to talk at some length about his work! And if you want to hear about how ubiquitous the diffusion equation can be!

Hung Le Pham and Dillon Mayhew

27 Sep 2011 - 15:16 in Event

Dr Hung Le Pham and Dr Dillon Mayhew are both keynote speakers at the annual meeting of the Australian Mathematical Society in Wollongong this week, in their respective special sessions.

Honour for Prof Matt Visser

18 Nov 2009 - 18:32 in Achievement

Professor Matt Visser has been elected as a Fellow of the American Physical Society . Membership is limited to no more than one half of one percent of the membership and is recognition by his peers of his outstanding contributions to physics.

The citation, which will appear on his Fellowship Certificate, will read as follows:
"For contributions to gravity theory, especially the effects of energy condition violations and the development of analog models of black hole and cosmological spacetimes."

High Profile for Prof Matt Visser's work on Black Holes

10 Sep 2009 - 16:22 in Achievement

Following Professor Matt Visser 's public talk on Black Holes at the Wellington Public Library on 9/9/2009 the most recent issue of Scientific American (October 2009) contains an article (pp 39 - 45) on black holes by him and his collaborators. This is an excellent introduction to Professor Visser's work.

Great Marsden Success

08 Oct 2009 - 17:33 in Achievement

Congratulations to Professor Estate Khmaladze, Professsor Matt Visser and Dr. Noam Greenberg who have been awarded Marsden grants for 2009, and to Dr Byoung Kim and Dr Dillon Mayhew who have been awarded Marsden Fast Start grants for young researchers. These prestigious awards will allow the recipients to carry out foundational research in the mathematical sciences.

Fulbright Travel Award

11 May 2012 - 11:31 in Achievement

Congratulations to Dr Peter Nelson who will be a post-doctoral fellow in the School (under the supervision of Professor Geoff Whittle) who has been awarded a Fulbright Travel Award for a visit to the USA in September. The grant is to give various seminars in the USA, contributing to communication and exchange of knowledge between the US and NZ. Dr Nelson will be giving departmental seminars at Princeton, Rutgers and Columbia Universities, and the New York Combinatorics Seminar hosted by SUNY Brooklyn in September. The talks will be on his research in extremal matroid theory. He will also be working with Stefan van Zwam at Princeton.

Forder Lecture 2010

20 Aug 2010 - 15:05 in Event

The Biennial Forder Lecture:

Arithmetic progressions of primes

Professor Ben Green -- University of Cambridge.

A prime number is one that is divisible by exactly two numbers: itself, and one. The first few prime numbers are 2,3,5,7,11,13,17,19. The apparently random way in which prime numbers occur has fascinated people for centuries, and many attempts have been made to find some type of order in the sequence.

One of the most significant recent advances was made in 2004, when Prof. Green and his coauthor, the Fields medalist Terence Tao, proved that the sequence of prime numbers contains arbitrarily long arithmetic sequences. An arithmetic sequence of numbers is one in which each number is obtained by adding some constant to the previous number. For example, 3,7,11 is an arithmetic sequence, since each number is obtained by adding 4 to the previous number. As it happens, every number in this particular arithmetic sequence is a prime. It was a longstanding problem to show that it is possible to find arithmetic sequences of arbitrary length that are made up entirely of primes.

Prof. Green will talk about his and Prof. Tao's solution of the problem. The lecture is open to the public and will be appropriate for a non-specialist audience.

6.30pm Monday 13 September
Maclaurin LT102,
Victoria University,
Kelburn Parade

Download a poster for this lecture

Ben Green's homepage

More information on arithmetic sequences in primes

For information on the seminar, email Dillon Mayhew

Ever Wondered?

03 Oct 2011 - 16:24 in Staff in Action

The latest episode of the TVNZ7 programme "Ever Wondered" featured our very own Dr Dillon Mayhew, together with Prof Mike Steel (University of Canterbury) and Prof Andy Philpott (University of Auckland). This episode (series 2, episode 9) was on "Maths" and is now available online at

Estate Khmaladze now IMS Fellow

27 Apr 2011 - 16:13 in Achievement

Congratulations to Professor Estate Khmaladze on being elected to a Fellowship in the Institute of Mathematical Statistics. This fellowship honours Prof Khmaladze's outstanding research and professional contributions in the field of statistics and probability.

Estate Khmaladze elected Fellow of RSNZ

06 Oct 2010 - 14:16 in Achievement

Congratulations to Professor Estate Khmaladze who has been elected as a Fellow of the Royal Society of New Zealand - he is regarded as a leading international expert in statistical models, making significant contributions in not only theoretical work, but also for statistical problems in finance, insurance and other related fields.

Estate Khmaladze in collaboration with West Virginia University

30 Mar 2010 - 10:18 in Research

Congratulations to Professor Estate Khmaladze who has been appointed consultant to a 2 year United States NSF funded project: Recovery of Functions via Moments: Hausdorff case awarded to West Virginia University.

Dr Hung le Pham awarded London Mathematical Society grant

14 Oct 2009 - 13:06 in Achievement

Congratulation to Dr Hung le Pham who has been awarded a London Mathematical Society grant for his project "Multi- norms and multi-Banach algebras". The project involves a collaboration between Dr Garth Dales from the University of Leeds and Dr. Pham. Dr. Pham will be visiting the Universities of Leeds, Glasgow, Lancaster and Nottingham over the summer. This visit was arranged by Dr Matthew Daws of the University of Leeds who is one of the academics Dr. Pham will be working with during his visit.

Dr Dong Wang

27 Oct 2010 - 11:35 in Staff

It is with great regret that we announce the death of Dr Wang who died unexpectedly on the 22nd October. He will be greatly missed by his students, colleagues, friends and family.

Tributes to Dr Wang can be left on

The funeral will be held 11am Monday 1st November at the Karori Crematorium. Followed by a wake at Victoria University.

Dillon Mayhew wins Early Career Research Excellence Award

05 Jan 2012 - 20:16 in Achievement

Our congratulations to Dr Dillon Mayhew from the Mathematics group who has been awarded a Victoria University of Wellington Early Career Research Excellence award.

Dillon Mayhew - Nights Programme on Radio New Zealand

26 Sep 2015 - 17:01 in Staff in Action

Since March Dillon Mayhew has started visiting Nights programme on Radio New Zealand. He has been talking to Bryan Crump about mathematics generally, while they have also discussed the new book by Cedric Villani, the death of John Nash and the Millennium Prize problems.

Please see below the links to the radio broadcasts:

Creativity Scholarships 2016 for Undergraduate Students

07 Sep 2016 - 14:15 in Interesting

These scholarships have been set up as part of the Cultivating Creative Capital work. There are 5 scholarships of 2000 dollars each. The scholarships will be awarded to students who have distinguished themselves for thinking outside the box and taking a creative approach to their studies.

The scholarships will be awarded at a dinner on November 23. The deadline is just over a month away.

Please refer to this flyer for more information

Course wins International Award

07 Sep 2011 - 13:14 in Achievement

ORST 482 Official Statistics has won (jointly with an Ethiopian initiative) the ISI International Statistical Literacy Project 2011 "Best Cooperative Project Award". The International Statistical Literacy Project's Best Cooperative Project Award in Statistical Literacy is given once every two years in recognition of outstanding, innovative, and influential statistical literacy projects that affect a broad segment of the general public and are fruit of the cooperation of different types of institutions (national statistical offices, schools, statistical societies, media, libraries etc.).

The 2011 joint winners were:
  • From Ethiopia, The Belgian (Flemish), Ethiopian and Mozambique universities with the project, "North-South-South (NSS) International Collaborative Project in Biostatistics".
  • From New Zealand, Statistics New Zealand and NAOS (the Network of Academics in Official Statistics) with the project, "A post-graduate program in official statistics" (local participants Richard Arnold and Sharleen Forbes).

Congratulations to Valentina Baccetti

20 Nov 2012 - 11:45 in Achievement

Congratulations to PhD student Valentina Baccetti (supervisor Professor Matt Visser) who was the shared winner of the prize for best talk in the Applied Maths category at the New Zealand Mathematics and Statistics Postgraduate conference of this year in Auckland. Her presentation was on "Inertial frames without the relativity principle: breaking Lorentz symmetry."

Congratulations to Thomas Suesse

05 Sep 2011 - 08:59 in Alumni

Congratulations to Dr Thomas Suesse, a former PhD student in the School who has been appointed to a lectureship at the University of Wollongong. Dr Suesse was supervised by Dr I-Ming Liu with whom he has subsequently published a number of papers.

Congratulations to Shaochuan Lu

13 Jul 2009 - 17:00 in Achievement

Congratulations to Shaochuan Lu who has completed the requirements for his PhD with his thesis "Extensions of Markov Modulated Poisson Processes and Their Applications to Deep Earthquakes" under the supervision of Professor David Vere-Jones and Dr. David Harte.

Congratulations to Robin Averill

25 Sep 2009 - 15:05 in Achievement

Congratulations to Robin Averill who has completed her PhD "Teacher-student relationships in diverse New Zealand Year 10 mathematics classrooms: Teacher care." The thesis was under the supervision of Associate-Professor Megan Clark.

Congratulations to Professor Rod Downey

26 Sep 2012 - 10:11 in Achievement

Congratulations to Professor Rod Downey FRSNZ from Victoria‘s School of Mathematics, Statistics and Operations Research, who has been selected to join the inaugural class of Fellows of the American Mathematical Society, in honour of his distinguished contribution to mathematics. He will be officially inducted at the world‘s largest mathematics meeting, the 2013 Joint Mathematics Meetings, in San Diego in January.

Congratulations to PhD student

11 Jul 2012 - 10:26 in Achievement

Statistics PhD student Darcy Webber has won the Ministry for Primary Industries Prize for Student Oral Presentation making the best use of Quantitative Methodology at the joint Australian Marine Sciences Association/New Zealand Marine Science Society Conference held recently in Hobart (1-5 July 2012). Darcy is supervised by Dr Richard Arnold. Congratulations to Darcy.

Thesis completion

19 Jun 2009 - 17:38 in Achievement

Congratulations to Petarpa Boonserm who has completed the requirements for her PhD with her thesis "Rigorous Bounds on Transmission, Reflection and Bogoliubov Coefficients" under the supervision of Prof Matt Visser.

Congratulations to Paul Cordue

21 Nov 2012 - 10:48 in Achievement

More success at the New Zealand Mathematics and Statistics Postgraduate conference where MSOR student Paul Cordue won the prize for the peoples choice with his talk about "Adventures in Block Land". Congratulations to Paul.

Congratulations to Michael Snook

30 Jul 2013 - 09:27 in Achievement

Congratulations to Michael Snook, who has successfully completed his PhD thesis, "Matroids, complexity, and computation", under the supervision of Dillon Mayhew. Michael's thesis is concerned with the study of geometrical objects called matroids, and the ability of computers to answer questions about them.

Congratulations to Lisa Woods

09 Sep 2009 - 13:29 in Achievement

At the New Zealand Statistical Association 2009 meeting, held at Victoria University last week, Honours graduate Lisa Woods won the prize for best poster, for her project entitled "A probabilistic method of tectonic stress estimation." In the poster Lisa described how she made a map of the tectonic stresses in the earth's crust under New Zealand, using earthquake data.

Congratulations to Kemmawadee Preedalikit

12 Nov 2012 - 13:57 in Achievement

Congratulations to Kemmawadee Preedalikit (Far) who has successfully completed her PhD on "Joint Modeling of Longitudinal Ordinal Data on Quality of Life and Survival." The thesis was completed under the supervision of Dr I-Ming Liu and Dr Nokuthaba Sibanda.

Congratulations to Jozef Skakala

07 Jun 2011 - 13:57 in Achievement

Congratulations to Jozef Skakala who has successfully completed his PhD on "Aspects of general relativity: Pseudo-Finsler extensions, Quasi-normal frequencies, and multiplication of tensorial distributions". The thesis was completed under the supervision of Professor Matt Visser.

Congratulations to Haizhen Wu

15 Nov 2010 - 09:36 in Achievement

Congratrulations to Haizhen (Eric) Wu who successfully defended his PhD thesis on "Divisible statistics and their partial sum processess: asymptotic properties and applications". Eric's supervisor was Professor Estate Khmaladze.

Congratulations to Gabriel Abreu

18 Aug 2011 - 19:56 in Achievement

Congratulations to Gabriel Abreu who has successfully completed his PhD on "Kodama time, entropy bounds, the Raychaudhuri equation, and the quantum interest conjecture". The thesis was completed under the supervision of Professor Matt Visser.

Congratulations to Dayle Anderson

19 Apr 2012 - 14:41 in Achievement

Congratulations to Dayle Anderson who has successfully completed her PhD on "Teacher Knowledges, Classroom Realities: Implementing Sociocultural Science in New Zealand Year 7 and 8 Classrooms". The thesis was completed under the supervision of Associate Professor Megan Clark.

Congratulations to Brenda Sherley

06 Jul 2011 - 10:00 in Achievement

Congratulations to Brenda Sherley who has successfully completed her PhD on "'Kindergarten and New Entrant Teachers' Beliefs and Practices in Mathematics Teaching and Learning". The thesis was completed under the supervision of Associate-Professor Megan Clark along with Dr Joanna Higgins (Faculty of Education). Brenda is currently working for UNESCO in Samoa.

Congratulations to BD Kim

17 Jul 2012 - 08:50 in Achievement

It looks like BD Kim will not be seeing much summer weather over the next few years. He has been invited as a research visitor to both the Max Planck Institute for Mathematics in Bonn and IHES (The Institut des Hautes Études Scientifiques) near Paris. These are two of the world's most prestigious institutions for research in mathematics. He will be spending the summer of 2012/3 at MPIM and the summer of 2013/4 at IHES. Judging by last summer in Wellington, he won't be missing much.

Congratulations to Amanda Cameron

24 Sep 2013 - 19:12 in Achievement

Amanda Cameron, who recently completed her masters under Dillon Mayhew's supervision, has been awarded a "Queen Mary Principal's research studentship" to study for her PhD at Queen Mary University in London. She will be working with the combinatorics group there.

Congratulations to Adam Day on his successful PhD completion

19 May 2011 - 11:44 in Achievement

Congratulations to Adam Day who has successfully completed his PhD on "Randomness and Computability". The thesis was completed under the supervision of Professor Rod Downey. Adam leaves to take up a research fellowship at the Miller Institute for Basic Research in Science at the Berkeley campus of the University of California shortly.

Cigna awards inaugural Actuarial Scholarship

29 May 2015 - 15:59 in Achievement

Navin Patel has been awarded $5,000 towards his studies as recipient of the 2015 Cigna Actuarial Scholarship.

Granted for the first time this year, the scholarship was set up by Cigna Life Insurance NZ Ltd to encourage potential students at Victoria University to consider the actuarial profession as a career path.

Cigna also offers the successful candidate a potential internship at their Wellington office over the summer break.

Third year Actuarial Science student Navin was selected due to his academic excellence and desire to learn, says Cigna’s Head Actuary Nathan Thomas.

“Navin understood the level of effort and commitment involved in being an actuary. Both his general attitude and his approach to balancing studies with playing competitive cricket for the Manawatu Mens Representative District Team impressed the panel. Navin also has good written and verbal communication skills which is a very valuable and often underestimated skill within the actuarial profession.”

Dr Peter Donelan, Head of the School of Mathematics, Statistics and Operations Research at Victoria University, says the scholarship is welcome boost for both students and the School.

“I am very grateful to Cigna for establishing this scholarship in support of our new Actuarial Science programme.

“Congratulations to Navin—he is an ideal student to be the first recipient of this scholarship. He has a passion for the actuarial profession evident from when he first applied to study at Victoria and an outstanding academic record. I look forward to seeing him flourish in his chosen vocation in the future.”

Navin, who also studies Mathematics as part of his double degree, says he is honoured to be selected as recipient for the award.

“Actuarial Science has always been a passion of mine and this scholarship is a stepping stone into applying my passion into the real world. It is an honour in knowing that my hard work has been recognised, and fills me with the motivation and excitement to keep pursuing my Actuarial endeavours and provides me with more than enough financial assistance for my journey ahead.”

Victoria University is the first university in New Zealand to offer Actuarial Science as a major. Traditionally, gaining qualification as an actuary has been a long and arduous task. The new major aims to help students develop the skills and knowledge that will make access to the profession more straightforward and to highlight the career to students at a much earlier stage.

To find out more about Victoria University’s Actuarial Science programme, see our brochure

Celebrating our administrators

14 May 2014 - 12:26 in Achievement

In a double celebration, colleagues from the School of Mathematics, Statistics and Operations Research, the School of Engineering and Computer Science, and the Faculty of Science got together to recognise two of our great administration team. MSOR School Manager Ginny Whatarau received the 2014 Parker Bridge Administration Professionals Award for Wellington region office managers. The award was presented by Parker Bridge’s Adelle Kenny who commented that Ginny’s nomination stood out in a large field of nominations of high calibre. The award is well deserved recognition of Ginny’s work at the heart of the school.

It was also with some sadness that we farewelled Kelsey Firmin who leaves the schools’ office after 4 years. Kelsey has continually impressed us with her friendliness and willingness to meet and exceed our expectations. It has been a pleasure to witness her growing capability in the office and we wish her all the very best as she further develops her career in her new position at NZQA.

Adelle Kenny presents the award to Ginny

27512 REC001.jpg

27512 REC002 (1).jpg

International Biometrics Society Meeting 2009

15 Feb 2010 - 13:52 in Event

Four members of the Statistics and Operations Research Group (Ivy Liu, Richard Arnold, Nokuthaba Sibanda [pictured, catching prawns in the rain], and Shirley Pledger) recently attended the 2009 regional meeting of the International Biometrics Society (IBS), held in Taupo in December.

Ivy Nokuthaba Richard Biometrics2009.jpg
The conference programme covered a wide range of subjects in biostatistics - with Victoria researchers presenting work on Capture-Recapture, Bayesian infrerence in genetics and analysis of multiple response data in contingency tables. The conference particularly attracted researchers from NZ and Australia (some of whom had never seen rain before), as well as others from around the world.

Carolyn Chun wins Kenneth Patchen Award for the Innovative Novel

23 Nov 2011 - 15:16 in Achievement

Carolyn Chun, one of our postdocs working with Geoff Whittle and Dillon Mayhew on a two-year project funded by an International Research Fellowship from the National Science Foundation, has won the 2012 Kenneth Patchen Award for the Innovative Novel.

Carolyn did a Masters of Fine Arts at the same time as her PhD in matroid theory, and a novel she wrote at that time, "How to Break Article Noun," has won the award, which honours "the most innovative novel submitted during the previous calendar year". Congratulations to Carolyn! Here's a link with further details about the Kenneth Patchen Award:

Also, here's another link about the NSF International Research Fellowship which is funding Carolyn's current research on excluded minors for matroid representability over the five-element field:

NSF International Research Fellowship for Carolyn Chun

22 Mar 2010 - 10:06 in Achievement

Carolyn Chun has been awarded a two-year International Research Fellowship from the National Science Foundation. The NSF is one of the preeminent funding bodies for science in the USA. Their International Research Fellowships are designed to support international collaborative opportunities for reseachers in the early stages of their careers.

Carolyn arrived at Victoria in August 2008, after completing her PhD at Louisiana State University, to do research in matroid theory. Her stay is currently supported by the Marsden grant of Geoff Whittle. With the sponsorship of the NSF, she can extend her stay for another two years. Long enough for plenty of matroid theory, but more importantly, enough time for her collaborators to teach her the rules of cricket!

More information on the IRF programme can be found here:

Bethan Cropp wins James B Hartle Award

11 Oct 2010 - 11:16 in Achievement

Congratulations go to Bethan Cropp, Matt Visser's MSc student: she has won the Hartle Award for best student presentation at the international General Relativity conference in Mexico last July , competing against many PhD students. The talk she gave was based on the paper she and Matt wrote on "General polarization modes for the Rosen gravitational wave" which was recently published in the journal "Classical and Quantum Gravity".

Note that 2 of Matt's PhD students ,Silke and Celine won the same award at the previous GR18 conference in Sydney. There is at most one award from each parallel session, and there are six awards overall, from a conference of some 600 attendees, so congratulations to Matt too!

Best jobs are in Mathematics

05 May 2014 - 11:01 in Interesting

Jones proofs (dragged) copy.jpg
Recent graduate Courtney Jones now a Behavioural Sciences Researcher at Opus.

In its annual survey of careers, the US company CareerCast has rated three of its top four jobs (out of 200) for 2014 as Mathematician, Statistician and Actuary. The survey is based on quality of work environment, job satisfaction and employment opportunities.

The report points out that these days a huge variety of employers look for and depend on the mathematical sciences and the range of opportunities for our graduates is diverse: from traditional and fundamental occupations such as teaching, through business, engineering, the IT sector and creative industries, to government and non-profit organisations.

In 2015, this School, together with the School of Economics and Finance, plans to launch an undergraduate major in Actuarial Sciences to further enhance employment opportunities for our graduates. We strongly encourage students still at school to maintain their mathematics through to year 13 and to consider the rewarding intellectual challenges and career opportunities provided by majoring in statistics and mathematics.

Best Student Prize for Ben Clark

13 Dec 2010 - 10:15 in Achievement

Ben Clark was given the prize for the best student talk at the recent ACCMCC conference in Canberra. This is the Australasian Conference on Combinatorial Mathematics and Combinatorial Computing and is the most significant conference in discrete mathematics held in Australia/New Zealand. Congratulations Ben!

Best Poster Award

17 Apr 2012 - 20:52 in Achievement

Andreana Holowatyj, who took part in the Summer Research Scholarships scheme, which is aimed to give students a meaningful research experience, won best overall in group four, Faculty of Science, in the Summer Gold Poster Competition. Her poster entitled "Characterizing Moves in Hexagonal Regions of Hextile Knot Mosaics" came from her summer research which was supervised by Professor Geoff Whittle. This year the number of entries was up by 50 per cent from the previous year and the quality made the judging an extremely difficult task.

Applied Statistics MSc student wins FoRST Maori Knowledge Fellowship

15 Feb 2010 - 17:11 in Achievement

OUr congratulations to Kylie Reiri, an applied statistics Masters student, who has been awarded a Te Tipu Putaiao (Maori Knowledge) Fellowship from FoRST. Kylie is one of four Victoria students, and one of only nine nationally, to win this award.

Under the supervision of Richard Arnold (SMSOR) and Adele Whyte (SBS), Kylie will conduct a statistical analysis of temporal and spatial variation in the Ngati Kahungunu fisheries catch. Her aim is to provide an improved view of the fisheries data currently collected in the Ngati Kahungunu rohe (boundaries), including reporting results at a finer geographical scale. Kylie will report back to Ngati Kahungunu stakeholders, iwi, scientific and industry groups, and to government.

Dr Alex Usvyatsov receives Shoenfield Prize

15 Apr 2014 - 09:41 in Achievement

Alex Usvyatsov has been awarded the 2013 Shoenfield Prize the Association for Symbolic Logic. The prizes are awarded every 3 years for the best book and best article demonstrating outstanding expository writing in the field of logic published in the previous 6 years. Alex’s prize is for the article “Model theory for metric structures," based on earlier work of Alex’s with Itai Ben Yaacov (Institut Camille Jordan, France) in the field of continuous logic, and that of C. Ward Henson (University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign) on model theory of Banach spaces, and written together with Alexander Berenstein.

The prize was established to honour the late Joseph R. Shoenfield for his many outstanding contributions to logic and to the Association for Symbolic Logic. Generations of logicians have especially valued Shoenfield's expository gifts, and his writings provide models of lucidity and elegance.

Rod Downey was a winner of this prize the last time it was awarded in 2010, this ‘double’ paying further testament to the international standing of the mathematical logic group at Victoria.

Adam Day wins Miller Fellowship

15 Dec 2010 - 13:47 in Achievement

Adam Day, a PhD student studying under the supervision of Professor Rod Downey has been awarded a Miller Research Fellowship for a three year term 2011-2014. Miller Research Fellowships are intended for brilliant young women and men of great promise who have recently been awarded, or who are about to be awarded, the doctoral degree. The Miller Institute for Basic Research in Science is located at the Berkeley campus of the University of California. All research is performed in the facilities provided by the host UC Berkeley academic department.The Institute will provide an annual stipend of US$60,000 and a research fund of US$12,000 per annum.

Actuarial science now offered as major

30 Jun 2015 - 11:08 in Interesting

Please refer to the link for more information

AMS Centennial Fellowship Awarded

21 Apr 2009 - 12:50 in Achievement


Antonio Montalbán, recently a Post-Doctoral fellow of Victoria University under Rod Downey, has been awarded the prestigious American Mathematical Society Centennial Fellowship for the 2009-2010 academic year. The fellowship is presented annually, for excellence in research achievement. The stipend for his fellowship is US$75,000, plus an expense allowance of US$7,500.

Antonio's research field is computability theory. In general, he is interested in measuring the complexity of proofs and constructions from classical mathematics. He plans to use his fellowship to visit Berkeley, among other places, and to work on finding the proof-theoretic strength of Laver's theorem and other theorems that seem to require proofs of particularly high complexity.

More information can be found at

2014 Nerode Prize

17 Mar 2014 - 16:22 in Achievement

Professor Rod Downey is co-author of one of two papers to be awarded the 2014 Nerode Prize for outstanding papers in

multivariate algorithmics and complexity, published in the 10 years before the award. Peter Widmayer, chair of the prize committee, made the announcement of the prizes last week. Rod's paper that was selected is:

"On problems without polynomial kernels”,

Hans L. Bodlaender, Rodney G. Downey, Michael R. Fellows and Danny Hermelin, Journal of Computer and System Sciences, 2009

The prize will be awarded at the International Symposium on Parameterized and Exact Computation, to be held in Wroclaw, Poland this September.

The School is delighted to acknowledge this further recognition of Rod’s outstanding scholarship and academic leadership in the field of computability and complexity.

Information about the prize can be found at

2011 Prizewinners

02 Aug 2012 - 10:35 in Achievement

2011 Prizewinners

Several prizes to honour outstanding mathematics and statistics students are listed at Academic Prizes. The oldest of these goes back to 1929. The following list of 2011 prizewinners is a small tribute to some of our best students.

First year

John P. Good Memorial Prize (MATH 142, 151, 161): jointly between Timothy Caldwell, Brandon Ross

Rotary Club of Wellington Prize (MATH 151, 161): Nguyen, Hoai Bach

Rotary Club of Wellington Prize (MATH177, STAT193): Saleha Yunus

Shayle Searle Prize (STAT 193): Hayley Landreth

Second year

Macmorran Prize (MATH 211, 243, 244, 251): Lee, Chang Min

Jenny Whitmarsh Award (female; MATH 243, 244, 251): Jessica Franklin

J. T. Campbell Prize (MATH277): Christina Vergunst

Third year

W. H. Vaughan Prize (MATH 301, 312, 313, 321): Luke Pratley

David Payne Memorial Prize (MATH 321, 322): Peter Moore

Statistics New Zealand Prize (MATH 377; STAT 332, 392, 393): Gabrielle McElwee

Health and Disability Intelligence Prize (STAT 392): Charlotte Gutenbrunner

2011 Hatherton Award to Dr Adam Day

15 Nov 2011 - 11:16 in Achievement

The Hatherton Award for 2011 has been awarded to the pure mathematician Dr Adam Day for his paper entitled "Increasing the Gap between Descriptional Complexity and Algorithmic Probability" which was published in the Transactions of the American Mathematical Society in October 2011. Dr Day was the single author of the paper and worked from the School of Mathematics, Statistics and Operations Research, Victoria University of Wellington.

The paper is published in one of the world's top pure mathematics journals and reports a fundamental contribution to the area of algorithmic information theory, concerned with the relationship between the a priori probability of an event and the event's shortest descriptional length. The author has solved a 26 year old question in the area and the result is regarded by the referees as a tour de force of lasting value and considered a most significant result in algorithmic information theory.

Dr Day completed his undergraduate and PhD degrees at Victoria University under the supervision of Professor Rod Downey and has now received a Miller Fellowship to further his studies at the University of California, Berkeley. The Hatherton Award is awarded annually for the best paper in physical, earth or maths and information sciences by a New Zealand University PhD student. It was established in memory of Trevor Hatherton FRSNZ, President of the Royal Society of New Zealand 1985-89, and awarded for the first time in 1997.

10 x 10 Lecture Series

08 Jul 2013 - 09:40 in Event

The 10x10 series - ten speakers at ten locations in ten months. Come and listen to New Zealand mathematicians talking about their work and how they are helping to find solutions to today’s problems.

Codes and ciphers – the mathematics of the internet

Dr Dillon Mayhew

5.30pm Thursday 20 June 2013, Rimu Room, Scion, 49 Sala Street, Rotorua.

Our modern world has been completely transformed by the instantaneous movement of information around the globe – the information transmitted over the internet in 24 hours would fill 2,000,000 tons of CDs. How can we transmit such volumes of information accurately and securely? The answer lies in the mathematics of codes and ciphers. This talk will be a non-technical explanation of some of these mathematical ideas.