Professorial Chair will drive excellence and promote mathematics, statistics and data science.

The University of Wollongong (UOW) has announced the establishment of a Professorial Chair in Mathematical Sciences, supported through a $1.25 million philanthropic gift from the Tibra Foundation.

The Tibra Foundation Chair in Mathematical Sciences is the first philanthropically funded chair in mathematics in Australia in more than 100 years.

It will support excellence in mathematics, statistics and data science at UOW, highlight the contribution mathematical sciences make to Australia’s social and economic wellbeing, and raise awareness about the career opportunities that mathematical sciences degrees deliver. UOW will now begin a recruitment search for a world-leading scholar to appoint to the Chair.

In addition to the Chair in Mathematical Sciences, the Tibra Foundation has committed to several scholarships and prizes, taking its total philanthropic support for the next five years to $1.33 million.

The Tibra Foundation is the philanthropic arm of Tibra Capital, a finance company specialising in quantitative trading. Several of the company’s founders are UOW mathematics alumni.

In a statement, the Tibra Foundation said: “As a quantitative organisation we have a passion for the mathematical sciences, and are excited to help transform the region into a centre of excellence for mathematics.

“Sponsoring a world-leading Chair in Mathematical Sciences will make it easier for UOW to recruit other high-quality mathematicians and foster a rich environment in the field of mathematics.”

The Tibra Foundation was inspired to fund the Chair in order to reverse a decline in the support and take-up of mathematical sciences in Australian universities and schools.

Since 2013, the average enrolment in mathematics degrees at Australian universities has been declining, and is now at less than 0.5 per cent of the total student cohort.

“Mathematical sciences is an area that Australia isn’t typically known for and we want to be involved in changing that. Our country is suffering from a significant shortage of skills in this area,” the Tibra Foundation said.

“As members of the finance industry, and particularly the quant trading space, our success has been made possible by our ability to utilise mathematics as a tool to achieve a better understanding of the world around us.

“By investing in education, we hope to promote the growth of a world-leading mathematical sciences ecosystem, and help Australia attract and retain talent. We want to inspire future generations to seek a career in mathematics and the economic benefits it brings.”

The Tibra Foundation Chair in Mathematical Sciences will address three critical priority areas for the University:

  • Building regional capacity and engagement in mathematics, statistics and data science;
  • Strengthening UOW’s opportunities to be an international leader in the mathematical sciences;
  • Expanding UOW’s capacity to undertake outreach activities and engagement with schools and future students.

UOW Vice-Chancellor Professor Paul Wellings CBE thanked the Tibra Foundation for its generous gift, and for championing mathematical sciences.

“The Tibra Foundation and the University of Wollongong have a shared vision and a shared belief in the critical role of mathematical sciences in our society,” Professor Wellings said.

“The establishment of the Professorial Chair will drive this shared vision forward by raising the profile of mathematics through research, outreach and by creating greater opportunities for participation and careers in this important field, particularly in regional areas.

“Founded by UOW alumni, with a commitment to the Illawarra region, Tibra Capital’s success and involvement with UOW is an exemplar of re-investing in higher education to address society’s critical challenges.”

Federal Education Minister Mr Dan Tehan congratulated the Tibra Foundation and UOW on the announcement.

“The creation of a Professorial Chair in Mathematical Sciences will establish the University of Wollongong as a leader in the field in Australia,” Mr Tehan said.

“It aligns with our Government’s plan to make maths and science degrees cheaper to encourage students to study subjects that will make them more job ready.

“We want universities and industry to work more closely together to deliver mutually beneficial outcomes. I applaud the University of Wollongong and Tibra Foundation for this initiative.”

ABOUT THE TIBRA FOUNDATION

The Tibra Foundation is focused on promoting and advancing mathematical sciences in Australia.

Tibra has been providing philanthropic support to UOW since 2008. Before today’s announcement, Tibra had already donated more than $1 million to the University, including support for 83 scholars. It has also supported UOW through internships for students, provided ongoing advice on research and teaching programs, and supported entrepreneurs through UOW’s business accelerator and incubator program iAccelerate.

The Tibra Foundation also supports the philanthropic thoughts and actions of Tibra Capital staff by contributing personally and financially to a range of charities, and working closely with various organisations including Green Connect, Forever Projects, Good 360 and the Red Cross.

MATHEMATICAL SCIENCES AT UOW

UOW’s School of Mathematics and Applied Statistics spans pure mathematics, applied mathematics, financial mathematics and statistics. Its graduates are in demand across all industries ranging from finance to defence and security to the health care sector.

The School of Mathematics and Applied Statistics is ranked in the top 101-150 institutions in the world in the Statistics and Operational Research category in the QS World Subject Rankings. In the Good Universities Guide 2021, UOW received a 5-star rating for learner engagement, overall experience and teacher quality in the study areas of Science and Mathematics.

Graduates from the School of Mathematics and Applied Statistics have gone on to successful careers in a wide variety of industries. Many have gone into the finance industry, whether working for high-profile companies or starting their own. Others have started successful companies in software development for wealth management, app development, and data analytics. Others still have worked for the World Health Organisation, Norwegian Institute of Public Health, and the Independent Hospital Pricing Authority.

The School offers undergraduate degrees in Mathematics, Mathematics and Finance, Mathematics (Applied Statistics) and recently added a Bachelor of Data Science and Analytics degree. UOW also offers an undergraduate degree in Mathematics Education through close cooperation between the School of Education, and the School of Mathematics and Applied Statistics.

The School’s research is led by the Institute for Mathematics and Its Applications (IMIA) and the National Institute for Applied Statistics Research Australia (NIASRA).

Research undertaken by these Institutes ranges widely, from helping to feed the world by improving the grain output, to working with NASA to measure CO2 in the atmosphere, to modelling the behaviour of bushfires, among many others.

[Featured image: Head of the School of Mathematics and Applied Statistics Senior Professor Aidan Sims, Tibra Capital co-founder and Tibra Foundation committee member Tim Berry, UOW Vice-Chancellor Professor Paul Wellings CBE, Faculty of Engineering and Information Sciences Professor Valerie Linton. Picture: Paul Jones, UOW]