Past Events

Information about past events, the program and presentations for the day.

Past events

Real World Maths in Action runs every second year. Here you can find photos, guest speaker biographies, short problem-solving competition questions and MIT Challenge questions from past events.

Sample questions




Photo Gallery

2018 Real World Maths in Action fair

Every year students enjoy the activities and challenges of the Real World Maths in Action fair. Here you'll find a photo gallery of the winners from each competition and the events of previous years.

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Anthony Mays juggling


Real World Maths in Action presents guest speakers to discuss how mathematics and statistics can be used in almost any industry, career or classroom.

The academic speakers featured in the 2018 Real World Maths in Action fair included:

A profile image of David Balding

Professor David Balding

I studied mathematics at the University of Newcastle (NSW) and worked there for a year as a tutor and research  assistant before heading off to the University of Oxford on a Commonwealth Scholarship to study for a PhD in mathematics. I then held a junior academic post at Oxford for a year before moving successively to Queen Mary London, the University of Reading, Imperial College London and University College London. After 30 years in the UK, I returned to Australia in 2014, where I am Professor of Statistical Genetics in the Schools of Bioscience and of Mathematics and Statistics, University of Melbourne.

My research covers a broad range of mathematical and statistical problems in genetics – evolutionary, population and medical. I also work on the interpretation of forensic DNA profiles and have given expert evidence in many court cases as well as writing a book "Weight-of-Evidence for Forensic DNA Profiles" (Wiley, 2nd edition 2015). I am an editor of the Handbook of Statistical Genetics (Wiley, 4th edition will appear late 2018) and the Handbook of Statistical Systems Biology (Wiley, 2011).

A profile image of Antoinette Tordesillas

Professor Antoinette Tordesillas

Antoinette studied applied mathematics at the University of Adelaide (BSc Honours 1987) and at University of Wollongong (PhD 1992) and was awarded the Michell Medal by ANZIAM in 2000. After working in the USA for several years, she returned to Australia to take up a lecturing position at the University of Melbourne. She was promoted to Professor in 2015.

Antoinette’s research crosses the domains of mathematics, engineering, physics and geophysics. She has been chief investigator on a range of problems relating to: off-road vehicle mobility in terrestrial and extra-terrestrial environments, geotechnical structures, sensor networks, earthquake mechanics, unconventional reservoir characterisation, and design of sustainable construction materials. Her recent work is focused on multiscale material characterisation and modelling from data, fuelled by continuing breakthroughs in high-resolution measurements. These efforts involve international collaborations with multidisciplinary teams from the experimental and high performance computing fronts, including UNESCO on landslide monitoring, with funding from the US Army, US Air Force, NASA and the ARC.

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Dr Lewis Mitchell

I completed a BMath (Hons) (Adv) / BSc (Physics) (Adv) at the University of Wollongong in 2007 and then pursued a PhD at the University of Sydney from 2008-2012. After completing the PhD, I undertook a postdoctoral fellowship in the mathematics of climate at the University of Vermont.

I was appointed as a lecturer in applied mathematics within the Stochastic Modelling and Operations Research group at the University of Adelaide in 2014. My research interests are in computational social science and social networks, particularly how information and influence propagate through online social media, as well as data assimilation and the mathematics of weather and climate. I am also an associate investigator with ACEMS.

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Dr Sally Kuhlmann

Sally was drawn to the beauty of pure maths in high school and continues to be fascinated and inspired by it today.

After completing a Bachelor of Science, she went on to do a PhD in topology, which studies the nature of space and the objects within it. She learnt a lot about weird and wonderful mathematical spaces, and not theory – sorry, knot theory. She also discovered that as a topologist she could no longer tell the difference between a coffee mug and a donut (see why in her talk!).

Sally also has a passion for teaching mathematics, and for many years worked in the Mathematics and Statistics Learning Centre at the University of Melbourne, before taking time off to have a family. She has now returned to casual tutoring in the School of Mathematics and Statistics, where she enjoys working with the next generation of young maths enthusiasts.

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Jonathan Ling

Digital Analyst

Maths has always been a passion of mine since discovering the beauty, creativity and elegance of mathematical patterns from a young age. I also enjoy the satisfaction of solving difficult problems and learning about useful ways that maths is applied in the real world.

In VCE, I studied Specialist Maths for the challenge and creativity required. This also enabled me to fast-track maths studies at the University of Melbourne, where I majored in Physics and Operations Research – a branch of maths also known as ‘the science of decision making’. Both majors showed how maths could be applied to the real world and make a positive impact, which I really appreciated learning about.

Since graduating in 2015, I have worked in stock trading, business strategy, data analytics and consulting. Many people are surprised by how different my studies and my career seem to be. Yet, in each job, I have often needed to draw upon the analytical and problem-solving skills learnt from studying maths.

It has been an eye-opening experience to work in so many diverse applications of maths, and I will probably continue doing so for a long time yet!

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Dr Sue Ann Chen

Research Scientist
IBM Research - Australia

I have always liked mathematics – it was the only subject in primary school where it was possible to get a 100 percent. Although this was no longer true as I progressed to high school, my passion for mathematics remained. It was only halfway through my bachelor’s degree that I was made aware that doing a university degree in Mathematics was actually possible! This was when I made a switch over to Mathematics, and discovered applied mathematics though in all truthfulness, I had no idea how mathematics could be used anywhere.

After completing my PhD on bubble surface deformation near a wall, I accepted a research scientist position at IBM Research. It was at IBM that I realised how my mathematics degree could be used to solve a myriad of problems, including renewable energy and finance. The skills I have developed during my PhD: problem-solving, finding patterns in data, programming and even presenting have proven to be useful in my current position. I am still learning new things about mathematics every day at work and am excited to discover new ways to use mathematics to solve our everyday life problems.

Profile image of Zuhe Zhang

Dr Zuhe Zhang

Data Scientist

Zuhe Zhang received his PhD in mathematics from the University of Melbourne with a
focused research field of privacy in Bayesian networks and combinatorial problems in lattice
models. He researched in data privacy, machine learning and statistical mechanics and
published in top journals, such as Journal of Machine Learning Research, Journal of
Statistical Physics and Journal of Statistical Mechanics, in these areas. Zuhe is a reviewer for
Mathematical Reviews of the American Mathematical Society (AMS).

Zuhe has extensive experience in quantitative modelling and interdisciplinary research fields.
Being a Data Scientist in ANZ bank currently, Zuhe is focusing on designing experiments and
developing machine learning and statistical methods for a personalised recommendation
system. When working at IBM Research Australia, Zuhe evaluated different word-embedding
techniques in natural language processing and built an effective machine learning model for
trademark analytics.

Profile image of Ran Niu

Ran Niu

Senior Data Analyst
Victorian Centre for Data Insights

Growing up as a big fan of maths, I didn’t hesitate to go for a maths-related degree in uni. I majored in pure and applied maths in a Bachelor of Science.

In 2011, I decided to further my adventure with maths, particularly with statistics. I got the opportunity of studying maths and statistics at the University of Melbourne as a master student and completed my degree in 2013. The two-year program truly enlightened me as to what a wide range of interesting jobs I can do with fun applications of maths and statistics.

Since graduating, I have worked in several industries as a data science professional, within both the public and private sectors. Currently I’m a senior data analyst with the Victorian Centre for Data Insights. My major task is to help people understand their problems as well as solve the problems through the use of maths and statistics.

I’ve been enjoying working with numbers and formulas and am thrilled to see how they magically deliver value to my clients. Recently I’ve been particularly interested in better policy making for public service and welfare via the good use of data.