National recognition for UC mathematicians

28 January 2011

Two University of Canterbury mathematicians have received national recognition for their contributions to the discipline.

National recognition for UC mathematicians - Imported from Legacy News system

Professor Charles Semple and UC PhD student Rachael Tappenden with their awards.

Two University of Canterbury mathematicians have received national recognition for their contributions to the discipline.

Professor Charles Semple (Mathematics and Statistics) and PhD mathematics student Rachael Tappenden received two of three awards presented annually by the New Zealand Mathematical Society (NZMS) at the organisation's colloquium in Dunedin recently.

Professor Semple, who is President of the society, was awarded the NZMS Research Award for his contributions to discrete mathematics, the branch of mathematics that provides the theoretical underpinnings to computer science. His particular area of expertise in this area is matroid theory, which involves working with structures that underlie the solution of many optimisation problems.

The award also recognised Professor Semple's work in the field of phylogenetics - the reconstruction and analysis of phylogenetic (evolutionary) trees and networks based on inherited characteristics - and computational biology.

It is the third time a UC academic has received the award since it was established in 1990 to foster mathematical research in New Zealand and to recognise excellence in research carried out by New Zealand mathematicians. The previous UC recipients were Associate Professor Neil Watson (1995) and Professor Mike Steel (1999).

Professor Semple said he was pleased to receive such recognition from his peers "particularly given who has won the award previously".

"Some big names in New Zealand mathematics have received this award in the past - Professor Rod Downey, Professor Marston Conder and Professor Gaven Martin - so it is a big honour to be this year's recipient."

Rachael was presented with the NZMS Aitken Prize, which is awarded to the student who delivered the best student talk at the NZMS colloquium. It is the fourth consecutive time a doctoral student from the UC mathematics and statistics department has collected the award.

Rachael's talk was titled "Extensions of Compressed Sensing" and discussed a way of reconstructing signals and images from small datasets which has applications in medical imaging.

"Being able to speak well in public is an important skill to have if you're going into academia so winning this award is a good sign for me. It also means that what I'm doing is interesting."

Rachael was one of 20 students from around the country who were considered for the award, which comes with a $500 prize.

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