WIMSIG Conference 2017: Plenary Speakers

Prof Kerrie Mengersen (QUT)


Statistical Models Meet New Technology: merging the old and the new

It is an exciting time to be a statistician. The wide variety of sources and types of data that are now available to statisticians offer new avenues for describing, understanding and modelling our world. New technology such as virtual reality, wearables and sensors can deliver data to inform about health and society, business and industry, agriculture and environment. The challenge for us now is how to enlarge our statistical skill-set to model and analyse these data effectively. In this presentation, I will discuss some of our experiences in merging new technology and statistical models. Examples will include using virtual reality to create a jaguar corridor in the Peruvian Amazon, satellites for official statistics, wearables for sport and elephants, and sensors for smart cities.

Bio: Distinguished Professor Kerrie Mengersen holds a Chair in Statistics at Queensland University of Technology in Brisbane, Australia. Her long-term research interests have been primarily in Bayesian statistical modelling, computation and analysis. More recently she has become active in big data analytics. Her applied interests are in health, the environment and industry. Kerrie is an Australian Research Council (ARC) Laureate Fellow and a Deputy Director of the ARC Centre of Excellence in Mathematical and Statistical Frontiers for Big Data, Big Models and New Insights. At QUT, her Bayesian Research and Applications Group (BRAG) comprises around a dozen awesome postgraduate and postdoctoral researchers.

Dr Christine O’Keefe (CSIRO)


Protecting confidentiality while making data available for research and policy analysis: current trends

Government agencies around the world are increasingly seeking to realise the value inherent in their growing data holdings, by making data available for research and policy analysis. While care is being taken to protect confidentiality in such data releases, there have been some high profile events in which access to some publicly-released data has been terminated due to re-identifications or risks of re-identification.

In this talk I will outline the evolution of traditional approaches to balancing use and analysis of data with confidentiality protection. In particular I will highlight current trends, potential issues, and emerging approaches to addressing the issues.

Bio: Christine is a Senior Principal Research Scientist in CSIRO Data61, and an Adjunct Professor in the School of Mathematical Sciences at The University of Adelaide. She is a Fellow of the Australian Mathematical Society and the Institute for Combinatorics and its Applications. Prior to joining CSIRO in 2000, Christine held academic positions at The University of Adelaide and The University of Western Australia.

The University of Adelaide awarded Christine a BSc with Honours in Pure Mathematics in 1982 and a PhD in Pure Mathematics in 1988. She also gained an MBA from the Australian National University in 2008. Christine was awarded the Australian Mathematical Society Medal 2000 for distinguished research in the Mathematical Sciences and the Hall Medal of the Institute for Combinatorics and its Applications 1996 for outstanding contributions to the field. She was included on the National Pioneer Womens’ Hall of Fame Signature Quilt, A Patchwork of Empowerment.

Prof Malabika Pramanik (University of British Columbia)


Needles, Bushes, Hairbrushes and Polynomials

Pretend that your car is a unit line segment. How do you perform a three-point turn using an infinitesimally small area on the road? It turns out that this seemingly impossible driving stunt is related to the fundamental theorem of calculus, as well as all the objects in the title of this talk! We will explore these connections and see how they have been useful in many problems in mathematics.

Bio: Malabika Pramanik is a professor of mathematics at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, Canada. Her interests include harmonic analysis, complex variables, and partial differential equations. She is the 2015-2016 winner of the Ruth I. Michler Prize of the Association for Women in Mathematics, and the 2016 winner of the Krieger-Nelson Prize, given annually by the Canadian Mathematical Society to an outstanding female researcher in mathematics. She is also the recipient of a Killam Teaching award by the UBC Faculty of Science.

Pramanik studied statistics at the Indian Statistical Institute, earning a bachelor’s degree in 1993 and a master’s in 1995. She then moved to the University of California, Berkeley, where she completed a doctorate in mathematics in 2001. After short-term positions at the University of Wisconsin, University of Rochester, and California Institute of Technology, she joined the UBC faculty in 2006.

Prof Ami Radunskaya (Pomona College, USA)


Using mathematics to fight cancer

What can mathematics tell us about the treatment of cancer? In this talk I will present some of the work that I have done in the modeling of tumor growth and treatment over the last ten years.

Cancer is a myriad of individual diseases, with the common feature that an individual’s own cells have become malignant. Thus, the treatment of cancer poses great challenges, since an attack must be mounted against cells that are nearly identical to normal cells. Mathematical models that describe tumor growth in tissue, the immune response, and the administration of different therapies can suggest treatment strategies that optimize treatment efficacy and minimize negative side-effects. However, the inherent complexity of the immune system and the spatial heterogeneity of human tissue gives rise to mathematical models that pose unique challenges for the mathematician. In this talk I will give a few examples of how doctors, immunologists, and mathematicians can work together to understand the development of the disease and to design effective treatments. 

This talk is intended for a general audience: no knowledge of biology or advanced mathematics will be assumed.

Bio: Among Ami Radunskaya’s areas of expertise are mathematical modelling of tumor growth and treatment, dynamical systems and analysis of non-linear models of power systems. She is co-director of EDGE(Enhancing Diversity in Graduate Education) as well as President of the EDGE Foundation. EDGE is a US national program designed to increase the number of women students, particularly minority women, successfully completing graduate programs in the mathematical sciences. 

As President of the US Association for Women in Mathematics (AWM), one of her goals is to build community between all types of mathematicians by supporting a unified network of members, and by paying attention to the needs of all members. Aspiring mathematicians don’t all have equal access to research opportunities, graduate school, internships, post-docs, jobs and recognition. As AWM President, she works within the association and with other groups to facilitate access to opportunities in mathematics. She hopes that the organization can use its collective strength to build and support a diverse mathematical community.

In 2014, she was featured in the independent film, The Empowerment Project: Ordinary Women Doing Extraordinary Things — a documentary that spotlighted positive and powerful women who are excelling in traditionally male-dominated fields as role models for young women beginning their careers.