In memory of Richard Brak

Dr Richard Brak
Dr Richard Brak

Dr Richard Brak joined the University in 1989 as a Lecturer, moving from the United Kingdom with his wife Rachel. He was quickly promoted to Senior Lecturer.

His educational background was in physics and mathematics, doing his BA(Hons) in Physics at the University of Oxford, followed by a PhD at Kings College (University of London). Richard then took up a postdoctoral position at the University of Oxford for three years before joining the University of Melbourne, where he stayed for the rest of his career.

Richard’s work spanned various lattice models in statistical mechanics, especially models of polymers such as self-avoiding walks. He also worked on models of diffusion, percolation and traffic flow which have connections to lattice paths, and later moved to the related area of enumerative combinatorics. Richard produced beautiful results concerning a model known as osculating paths. His work on exact solutions of lattice path models such as varieties and generalisations of Dyck and Motzkin paths led him to later focus on bijective combinatorics and the algebraic structures underlying these problems. His wide knowledge of mathematics let him to a novel and unique viewpoint of this area, and he was working on a book describing these developments at the time of his death.

Richard was a tremendous lecturer and was known for his dedication to teaching and his students. He applied the same dedication to the supervision of graduate students and he had a profoundly positive impact on the careers of several students. He mentored many colleagues, and he will be sorely missed. His colleagues will always remember him for his generosity of spirit and his laugh! He embodied the nature of a true scholar, an academic’s academic, without ego and was always fascinated by uncovering the deeper mathematical and physical understanding of the universe.

Richard was a global scholar who was regularly invited to speak at international conferences and was awarded many research grants, including as a Chief Investigator in the long running ARC Centre of Excellence on the Mathematics of Complex Systems (MASCOS).

Richard was deeply interested in archaeology, and over many years painstakingly produced an accurate 3D digital reconstruction of the palace at Knossos on Crete, based on archaeological data. See for some renderings. Richard had a passion for IT and the possibilities it opens up. Additionally, he was a keen bird watcher.

Richard was deeply committed to his family with his two sons always a focus for him. Richard passed away after a period of illness on the 15th September, 2021.

The School of Mathematics is establishing a student award in honour of Richard, his contribution to the School, and his love of teaching. If you would like to make a gift to the School in memory of Richard, it will contribute to this award:

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