Academy honours top UON mathematician

Wednesday, 26 March 2014

The Australian Academy of Science has today elected University of Newcastle mathematician Professor George Willis as a Fellow, the most senior honour a scientist can receive in Australia.

Professor George Willis

Internationally-recognised for the depth and influence of his contributions to diverse areas of mathematics which have had an effect on fields like robotics and control, Professor Willis was selected for his work with locally compact groups and fundamental concepts such as scale function and flatness.

Deputy Director of the Priority Research Centre for Computer-Assisted Research Mathematics and its Applications (CARMA) at the University of Newcastle, Professor Willis said he was thrilled to receive the honour. 

"It is a pleasure to be able to share this outward sign of success with my family because they are not able to share in the intrinsic rewards of the research itself," Professor Willis said. 

"Mathematical advances often come in moments of insight following long periods of intense, and seemingly fruitless, work and I remember those moments clearly," he said.

"The work I have been elected for began after I first moved to Newcastle in 1992. The key moment of insight came as I was walking from the flat I was renting in Mayfield to the University. That changed the direction of my research and I'm still building on that insight which came in the space of about 30 paces." 

The University's Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Research and Innovation), Professor Kevin Hall said Professor Willis joins a truly elite group, as one of only 21 new inductees in 2014 and 481 fellows in total. 

"Professor Willis is internationally-renowned as a true innovator, and indeed a creator of new mathematics, for his ability to synthesise traditionally distinct disciplines, and offer new insights on otherwise problematic questions," Professor Hall said. 

"His innovative spirit epitomises the University's ambition to push the boundaries of traditional research," he said. 

The strength of the Mathematics group at the University of Newcastle has seen three CARMA researchers recognised by the Academy as Fellows, including Professor Jon Borwein and Conjoint Professor Richard Brent. 

The Australian Academy of Science's President Suzanne Cory congratulated all the new Fellows. 

"All of these scientists are doing amazing and significant work in their chosen fields – they are the Olympic athletes of science."

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