The 2017 EO Tuck Medal

Professor Kate Smith-Miles, from Monash University, is an outstanding applied mathematician internationally known for the interdisciplinary focus of her research. She has developed a broad toolkit of mathematical techniques, and as well as the language and communication skills necessary to collaborate with researchers and industry partners, on problems from fields as diverse as manufacturing design, epidemiology, neural prosthetics, computer vision, finance, and stem cell modelling. The quest for societal impact drives her research agenda and her research leadership. She is an outstanding recipient of the E. O. Tuck Medal.

After graduating with a PhD twenty years ago, she was rapidly promoted from lecturer through to professor in just ten years. She has produced over 240 refereed scientific publications, has been awarded over $15 million in research grants (including 6 ARC Linkage grants) and has 22 PhD completions.

Kate has developed powerful new methods for solving combinatorial optimisation problems, and proposed novel multilinear algebra and tensor analysis techniques to achieve world-leading results in the field of image processing. She has constructed novel formulations of practical industrial optimisation problems, so they can be solved using traditional methods, as well as developing new techniques; she has advanced the use of machine learning methods coupled with optimisation to support intelligent optimisation methods that are responsive to dynamic conditions. These contributions were recognised with the award of the Australian Mathematical Sciences Medal in 2010 for outstanding research contributions to the mathematical sciences.

In 2014, she was awarded an Australian Research Council Laureate Fellowship, with an additional Georgina Sweet Award, a total of $2.83m, to support her groundbreaking work in developing new methodologies to support an improved science of algorithms. Here she uses a combination of linear algebra, optimisation, machine learning, and statistical inference to create powerful visualisations of the strengths and weaknesses of algorithms. She has proposed novel techniques for generating new test instances with controllable characteristics that are provably more diverse, challenging and insightful than standard benchmark test instances. Her methodologies are being applied to algorithms from fields as diverse as combinatorial optimisation, machine learning, time series forecasting, continuous optimisation, mixed integer programming, and software testing. The importance of these ideas to the many research communities that rely on algorithm testing is evidenced by the 20 fully-funded keynote and plenary addresses she has been asked to give in recent years to a variety of audiences from mathematics, computer science, engineering, and other fields. Her world-leading research has formed a critical component of several large- scale UK and European projects for which she serves on their international advisory boards. Kate’s ability to have an impact across many fields stems from her interdisciplinary background, which gives her the perspective to recognise the need for a new science of algorithms that cuts across any field that develops and tests algorithms.

In her role as Head of the School of Mathematical Sciences at Monash University (2009-2014), she brought a strong sense of appreciation at the highest levels of the university that the mathematical sciences are empowering to many disciplines. This led to Monash University supporting Kate’s initiative called MAXIMA (Monash Academy for Cross & Interdisciplinary Mathematical Applications), which blends teaching, research, consulting and community engagement. MAXIMA currently provides training opportunities for 19 interdisciplinary PhD students, and a further 23 interdisciplinary PhD topics have been proposed, awaiting student recruitment.

Beyond Monash University, Kate has made strong service contributions to the discipline of mathematics through membership of various AMSI committees, as well as membership of the AMSI Board. In addition she is chair of the advisory board for the $22m Choose Maths program, funded by BHP Billiton Foundation. She is also on the international advisory board for MATRIX, and is a member of the Prime Minister’s Knowledge Nation 100, which contributes to the implementation of the Australian Government’s National Innovation and Science Agenda. She is a new member of the ARC College of Experts (2017-2019). As a long-term partner in the CSIRO Mathematicians in Schools program, she has also made contributions to outreach, developing teaching materials that have been shared with other mathematicians to support their engagement with their schools.

Kate’s commitment and proven track record of successful service to the discipline of mathematics has been acknowledged with her being asked to commence a 2 year term as President of the Australian Mathematical Society, which commenced in December 2016.

The selection panel unanimously recommends that Professor Kate Smith-Miles be awarded the ANZIAM E.O. Tuck Medal for 2017.

On behalf of ANZIAM:

Kerry Landman (University of Melbourne)
Robert McKibbin (Massey University)
Peter Taylor (University of Melbourne)

Updated: 15 Feb 2018