Maryam Mirzakhani

Standford mathematics professor and 2014 Field Medallist, Maryam Mirzakhani, died last month, aged 40. It is a great loss to her family and to the global mathematical community.

Superstars of STEM

Science Technology Australia has announced the winners of the Superstars of STEM project.

Thirty of Australia’s brightest female STEM professionals have been selected to be the 2017 Superstars of STEM. The Superstars include statistician
Dr Karen Lamb from Deakin University.

Women At The Table (WATT)

On Tuesday 16 May, Yvonne Stokes (Chair of WIMSIG, The University of Adelaide), Lesley Ward (University of South Australia) and Gobert Lee (Flinders University) represented WIMSIG at the inaugural Women At The Table (WATT) speed networking event, which was supported by the Office for Women of the Government of South Australia.

The purpose of the event was to bring together members of the more than 25 active professional women’s networks in SA in order to build strong relationships between the groups and to explore opportunities for collaboration. We estimate there were over 70 attendees! After some finger food and a glass of wine each attendee was assigned to a table. Following some remarks from the organisers and invited speakers, each person spoke to a sequence of six different attendees for about 3 minutes each. The topic varied widely depending on who one was talking to.

Things discussed included the AustMS WIMSIG Travel Awards and how something similar might be suitable for another group, the upcoming WIMSIG conference, the percentage of women in different professional groups, and early childhood versus tertiary education. Everyone seemed quite animated and there was a good deal of noise! It was an interesting experience, but given the brevity of each of the discussions, it was difficult to reach any conclusions.

ACE Forum on Women in Research and Higher degrees in the Mathematical Sciences

Report by Maaike Wienk and Yvonne Stokes

On Friday 23 June, AMSI hosted a forum on Women in Research and Higher Degrees in the Mathematical Sciences, accessible via the ACE network.

The Forum was initiated and organised by Maaike Wienk (AMSI) to discuss and explore possible ways to counter the apparent drop in the number of female Honours and domestic PhD students in the Mathematical Sciences across Australia, as indicated from an analysis by AMSI of data collected by A/Prof Peter Johnston for the Australian Mathematical Society (1,2).

The Chair for the Forum was WIMSIG Chair Yvonne Stokes, and the program was as follows.

  • Introduction by A/Prof Yvonne Stokes (The University of Adelaide)
  • Speakers:
    – Prof Peter Bouwknegt (Director Mathematical Sciences Institute,
      Australian National University)
    – A/Prof Inge Koch (AMSI CHOOSEMATHS Executive Director, The
      University of Adelaide)
    – Ms Courtney Darville (Honours student in Pure Mathematics, The
      University of Sydney)
    – Prof Cheryl Praeger (Professor of Mathematics, The University of
      Western Australia)
    – Ms Rheanna Mainzer (PhD Student, Statistics, La Trobe University)
  • Discussion

Three of the speakers joined the forum electronically. There was an excellent audience estimated to be over 20 people, including some interstate people present by electronic means. Unfortunately there were some technical difficulties, leading to a temporary loss of video after the first speaker which was restored just in time for the third speaker, both of whom were participating electronically.

In her introduction, Yvonne presented some data for the period 2000-2014 taken from the AMSI report and shown here in Figures 1 and 2 along with some key findings:

  • 2004-2013: steady decrease in % female Honours completions;
    33% -> 23%.
  • 2009: rapid increase in % female PhD completions; 28% -> 35%.
  • 2011-2013: rapid increase in international PhD completions;
    32% -> 51% of all female PhD completions.
  • 2011-2013: rapid decrease in domestic female PhD completions;
    24% -> 17% of all PhD completions.

As already noted, the worrying trends in female Honours and domestic PhD completions were the focus of the forum.


Prof Peter Bouwknegt noted that these trends could not be seen in isolation of female staff on the pay roll and described some initiatives at the ANU to increase the number of female staff including female-only positions in 2016, 50/50 short-list requirements and unconscious bias training. He also mentioned that mentoring of more junior students by more senior students seems to work better than mentoring by staff.

Prof Inge Koch described the CHOOSEMATHS program, which aims to increase female participation in mathematics and STEM from primary school through to university and beyond. CHOOSEMATHS is very actively involved in setting up networking opportunities for female university students at the AMSI flagship events (Summer School, Winter School, BioInfoSummer and the Vacation Research Scholarship program) and supplying travel grants and scholarships specifically aimed at female participants in AMSI events.

Ms Courtney Darville told us about the circumstances that she had found helpful and unhelpful as a woman in mathematics. Her father (who had studied mathematics himself) had fostered her interest in mathematics, and she obtained support through participation in a maths club in Year 12 with older girls mentoring younger girls. She also remembers enjoying an event organized by the Sydney University Maths society at which female speakers spoke about their career and research experiences in the field.

Prof Cheryl Praeger gave an interesting talk describing her own experiences in mathematics and mentioned that the first female mathematics professor, Hannah Neumann, had been a significant role model. Cheryl felt that role models and women mathematics lecturers were important for encouraging female students. She also noted her positive experience of the flexible work environment that academia provided to her. She also noted the importance of having confidence in your own abilities.

The last speaker, Ms Rheanna Mainzer, described her long road to doing a PhD in statistics. Despite a childhood love of numbers, she had been told she wasn’t up to the harder mathematics subjects in school and should take an easier road. Starting off with a double degree in Science and Finance, she did not initially see mathematics as a career option. However, gradually she chose more mathematics subjects, did an AMSI Vacation Research Scholarship and found a very supportive supervisor who encouraged her to apply for a PhD scholarship.

Following the speakers there was about a half hour for questions and discussion which seemed to pass very rapidly indeed. It was noted that the introduction in some universities of 2-year Masters degrees that can be taken instead of an Honours year might make a difference to the current trend (note that the “Melbourne Model” Masters degrees are included in the Honours degree numbers), so further data collection remains important. The positive influence of a good school teacher that encouraged girls to do maths seemed to be typical for the women who spoke. Yvonne felt that many of the women that go on to do Honours and PhDs are those that love and do maths despite the difficulties and that we need to find ways to find out what can be done for those that are put off.

The purpose of this forum was to start a discussion within the mathematical sciences on how to improve the retention of female students into research and higher degrees. Several participants and speakers have indicated they are interested in further discussion on the matter. We encourage everyone who wants to be part of further discussion to contact us.

(1) AMSI, Gender Trends Across Universities in the Mathematical Sciences, Australian Mathematical Sciences Institute, (unpublished) July 2016.
(2) AMSI Survey 2014 — Final Results, December 2015.


WIMSIG Conference 2017: Celebration of Women in Australian Mathematical Sciences

Registration Early Bird Deadline has been extended to Friday 24 August!

  • Join us for this one-of-a-kind national conference!
  • Pass on the invitation to colleagues and students!
  • Over 90 registrants to date!

Important Dates

  • Early Bird registration deadline: August 24, 2017
  • Abstract submission deadline: August 31, 2017
  • Travel Grant application deadline: 5pm, Fri 25 Aug 2017 (ACST)
  • Conference: September 24-26, 2017

The conference welcomes people of any gender, but all the research talks will be given by women. Also, you’re welcome to participate whether or not you give a talk, and in particular the Travel Grants are intended to support women’s attendance and do not require you to present a talk or poster.

The registration fee includes:

Guest tickets are available for the Workshop and Reception. Guest tickets may be made available at a later date for the Conference Dinner.

We encourage you to

  • register if you have not already done so,
  • encourage others to participate,
  • submit an abstract for a talk and/or poster,
  • upload a photograph of yourself, via the Research Interests field in your personal Register! profile, for us to use in a slide show during the conference and possibly as part of our conference reporting,
  • add your MSC numbers via the Research Interests field in your personal Register! profile (your MSC numbers may be used to tailor future events and invitations relevant to you), and
  • advise us of any childcare requirements.

If you have already registered, thank you!

Abstracts may be submitted as part of the registration process or at a later date by logging in to the Register! system prior to the submission deadline on August 31, 2017.

If you know of someone else who is thinking about submitting an abstract and/or attending the meeting please draw their attention to the early bird and travel grant deadlines.

The website is being updated frequently with new information, so please check it regularly.

We urge participants to book accommodation as soon as possible as there is an international conference and other events overlapping with the meeting. A list of some Adelaide accommodation, including some lower-cost options, can be found on the Conference website.

We look forward to seeing you in September!

Maths Craft event: looking for volunteers

Here at Maths Craft Australia we believe that there is maths in craft and craft in maths. We are always on the lookout for new examples of the intersection between the disciplines, be that in knitting, crochet, origami, needlework, drawing or sculpture.

On the afternoon of Saturday 26 August, we will hold an event at La Trobe University city campus (360 Collins St) focusing on crochet, knitting and origami.    

We are looking for volunteers who are comfortable talking about the mathematics or can show basic knitting/crochet/origami techniques. We will hold a training session in the morning.  

If you can help out, please RSVP to julia.collins@amsi.org.au.

More info will be available at https://www.mathscraftaus.org/events/.

SAGE Symposium 2017

The 2017 SAGE Symposium will be held on September 5-6 at the Brisbane Convention and Exhibition Centre. Registration is now open.

MAGIC 2017

  • November 13-17, 2017
  • University House, Canberra

The inaugural Mentoring and Guidance in Careers Workshop (MAGIC Workshop) will present an opportunity to explore the many facets of forging a career, in academic, government or industry settings, and to discuss how to create building blocks for success and resilience in careers.

Participation is limited to a maximum of 35 early career researchers (0-7 years post PhD) who are female or of diverse gender identity, who have a PhD in mathematical or physical sciences and are based in Australia. Interested researchers should submit an application, which is available at the MAGIC workshop website at http://wp.maths.usyd.edu.au/MAGIC.

The application is simple — the applicants need to answer three questions and supply a two-page CV. Successful applicants will receive financial support for basic round-trip travel (economy) from their home institution to the workshop and will be provided accommodation from 12-16 November 2017 at University House, Australian National University, Canberra. A preliminary program is available on the website.

The workshop is organised by Professors Mahananda Dasgupta (ANU) and Nalini Joshi (The University of Sydney) and is supported through the Australian Research Council’s Georgina Sweet Award as part of their Australian Laureate Fellowships. The organising committee members include Dr Merryn McKinnon from the Australian National Centre for Public Awareness of Science, ANU.

Please send any direct questions to maths.joshiera@sydney.edu.au.


Department of Defence

  • Crypto-Mathematics Research Specialist
  • Applicants are required to hold a PhD in mathematics (or equivalent expertise) with an emphasis in one or more of the following areas: number theory, algebra, combinatorics, group theory, ring theory, algebraic geometry, coding theory, probability and statistics.
  • Closing date: Wednesday 2 August, 2017

Kirby Institute, UNSW Sydney

Deakin University

Johnson & Johnson Women in STEM2D Program

Johnson & Johnson (J&J) is launching a new global scholarship program to support mid career women to continue their academic journey, called Women in STEM2D Scholars Award Program.

This program is open to women in science, technology, engineering, maths, manufacturing and design. 

Applications open September 1 and close October 30, 2017.


Have you read an interesting article? Have some news? Have an opportunity available?

Please send items to WIMSIG-news@women.austms.org.au.

Note: Newsletters are published on the 1st day of each month (or soon after). The deadline for submitted items is the 27th day of each month.