The 2017 JH Michell Medal

The J.H. Michell Medal has been awarded since 1999 to an outstanding new researcher within 10 years of their PhD, who has carried out distinguished research in applied or industrial mathematics, and where a significant proportion of the research work has been carried out in Australia and/or New Zealand. The medal is named in honour of John Henry Michell (1863-1940) who completed an undergraduate degree at the University of Melbourne (1881-1884) and, on his appointment as an "Independent Lecturer in Mixed Mathematics" at The University of Melbourne in 1891, became the first university professor to be born in Australia (G. Cohen, 2006). Michell’s main research was in hydrodynamics and elasticity.

The Committee (Yvonne Stokes, Harvinder Sidhu, Mark Nelson) is unanimous in recommending that the 2017 J.H. Michell Medal be awarded to Dr Alys Clark from the University of Auckland. Alys works at the interface between mathematical modelling and the biological sciences with research interests in modelling the transport of nutrients in the complex and heterogeneous structures of the lungs, placenta and ovaries to guide clinicians in making medical decisions.

Alys completed her undergraduate education at the University of Oxford and her postgraduate education at the University of Adelaide: a BA(Hons) in Mathematical Sciences in 2002, a M.Math.Sc (Applied Mathematics) in 2005 and a PhD in Applied Mathematics in 2009. In 2008 she joined the Auckland Bioengineering Institute, the University of Auckland, as a research fellow, becoming a senior research fellow in 2015.

Alys has an impressive list of accomplishments. She has established world leading multi-scale and multi-physics models of function in the whole lung circulation (A.R. Clark et al., 2011) and placenta (A.R. Clark et al., 2015). A leading clinician recommended the lung model on the Faculty of 1000 database ( as being within the top 2% of published articles in Medicine and Biology and the first to quantitatively address the long-running debate within the pulmonary medicine community on how lung structure and function interact. This model paved the way for models of pulmonary vascular disease that are able to stratify clinical patients, and have real potential in guiding treatment strategies for patients with pulmonary vascular disease (A.R. Clark et al., 2014). These models are increasingly being cited as evidence for clinical decision making (Elf et al., 2015; Ikeda et al., 2014; European Respiratory Society Taskforce, 2014).

Since 2012 Alys has been a Partner Investigator on three grants and an Associate Investigator on one grant. The source of her funding includes the New Zealand Health Research Council and the Royal Society of New Zealand (RSNZ). She has held an Aotearoa Foundation Fellowship (2012--2015). In 2015 she was awarded a prestigious RSNZ Rutherford Discovery Fellowship, a five-year fellowship to support the development of New Zealand’s most talented young researchers.

Alys publishes in leading journals spanning mathematics, biomedical engineering and experimental physiology. Her peer-reviewed publications comprise 24 journal articles, a book chapter and 7 conference papers (including in SPIE and IEEE conference proceedings). She is active in the supervision of Masters and PhD students and she has built up a research group that is internationally recognised for its work modelling different elements of developmental biology.

Alys' track record in terms of publications and securing fiercely competitive external grants and fellowships, as well as the uptake of her research by practicing clinicians, testify to the extremely high quality and impact of her research. The committee regards Dr Alys Clark as an outstanding early career researcher and as a worthy recipient of the 2017 J.H. Michell Medal.

Congratulations Alys!

Associate Professor Yvonne Stokes (Chair), Professor Harvinder Sidhu, Associate Professor Mark Nelson.


G. Cohen (2006) Counting Australia In. Halstead Press in association with The Australian Mathematical Society.
A.R. Clark et al. (2011) J. Applied Physiol 110:943-955.
A.R. Clark et al. (2015) Interface Focus 5:20140078.
A.R. Clark et al. (2014) Resp Physiol Neurobiol 190:1-13.
Elf et al. (2015) J Thromb Thrombolysis 39:166-172.
Ikeda et al. (2014) Eur J Radiol 83:2260-2267.
European Respiratory Society Taskforce (2014) Eur Heart J doi:10.1093/eurheartj/ehu283.

Updated: 24 Mar 2017