The 2020 ANZIAM Medal


Professor Lawrence (Larry) Forbes has made an outstanding contribution over many years to applied and industrial mathematics with special contributions to the theory and numerical computation of fluid flows and the design of magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) coils. Larry has been an exemplary contributor to ANZIAM—as Chair of ANZIAM and Convenor of three successful ANZIAM conferences—and as an inspirational presenter for the many postgraduate students who attend the annual ANZIAM Conference. More generally he has made a long-standing commitment to applied mathematics as Associate Editor for the ANZIAM Journal and the Journal of Engineering Mathematics and as Head of School at the University of Tasmania. His influence in the applied mathematics community has spread far and wide through his supervision of a large number of talented postgraduate students—an integral part of the next generation of applied mathematicians—and through his untiring efforts to model the complexities of the real world using the power of mathematics.

The ANZIAM medal is our society’s most prestigious medal and recognises research achievement, wide-ranging activities enhancing the discipline of applied and industrial mathematics, and contributions to ANZIAM. Larry’s superb credentials in these three areas make him a most deserving recipient of the ANZIAM medal.

Professor Larry Forbes receiving the 2020 ANZIAM medal from Peter Taylor
(Photo Credit: Mark McGuinness)

Research Achievements

Larry obtained his PhD in 1981 from the University of Adelaide under the supervision of Len Schwartz and Ernie Tuck. After short stints as a researcher at the University of Adelaide and at the Materials Research Laboratories in Melbourne, Larry moved to the USA as a visiting researcher at the University of Iowa before he was appointed to a two-year term in 1983–1984 as Assistant Professor in the Department of Mathematics at Kansas State University in Manhattan, Kansas. Larry moved back to Australia in 1985 to accept a position as Lecturer in the Mathematics Department at the University of Queensland. He quickly established himself as a charismatic force in the Australian applied mathematics community and worked his way up to a well-deserved appointment as Reader (Associate Professor) in 1995. After five years in this position he moved to his current position as Professor of Mathematics at the University of Tasmania.

Larry first came to international attention through his early publications in the Journal of Fluid Mechanics (JFM). His jointly authored paper with Len Schwartz on Free-surface flow over a semicircular obstruction in JFM is regarded as a cornerstone in the analysis of flow past an obstacle. The analysis and numerical computation of fluid flexural-gravity waves in his two-part complementary papers in JFM —Surface waves of large amplitude beneath a plastic sheet. Part 1. High-order series solution in 1986 and Surface waves of large amplitude beneath a plastic sheet. Part 2. Galerkin solution in 1988—has been described in the literature as pioneering. Larry’s interest in fluid flow has been sustained by a long-term collaboration with Graeme Hocking that has produced an ongoing stream of joint publications which began in 1990 and continues to this day. In 2018 Professor Forbes was joint winner of the Mahony–Neumann–Room prize from Aust MS for his 2014 article titled On turbulence modelling and the transition from laminar to turbulent flow in the ANZIAM Journal.

A major project led by Larry Forbes and Stuart Crozier to investigate fundamental problems in the design of magnetic resonance imaging technology ultimately led to the granting of three US patents to Larry and his co-workers. This work was supported by four successive Australian Research Council (ARC) Discovery Grants from 1996–2012 with total funding of more than $2.5 million and the resulting publications have influenced a large body of subsequent research.

Professor Forbes has earned a major international reputation in applied mathematics for his work on the modelling and numerical solution of problems in mechanics, electromagnetism and chemistry. His numerical algorithms are said to be both ingenious and reliable. Larry’s research interests include ship hydrodynamics, shock waves in gases, outflows from underwater explosions or stars, modelling of disease spread and the behaviour of complex chemical reaction systems. His prodigious output on a wide range of topics is a truly impressive achievement.

Contributions to Applied and Industrial Mathematics

Larry Forbes has been an important contributor to applied mathematics in a variety of roles. He has supervised 16 PhD students, many of whom have gone on to high-profile careers in applied mathematics. They include Professor Scott McCue (QUT), Professor Harvinder Sidhu (UNSW), Associate Professor Shaun Belward (James Cook U), Dr Adrian Koerber (U Adelaide), Dr Michael Chen (U Adelaide), Dr Michael Brideson (U Tasmania), Dr Jane Sexton (Geoscience Australia), Dr Nick Beeton (CSIRO, Tasmania) and recent graduate Dr David Horsley (NASA, USA).

Professor Forbes was Head of the School of Mathematics and Physics at the University of Tasmania for the period 2001–2008. His service to the Australian mathematics community includes a three-year term on the ARC College of Experts. On the international front—in addition to his editorial duties with the Journal of Engineering Mathematics—Larry has refereed grant applications for the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada; the Foundation for Research, Science and Technology of New Zealand; and the Danish Technical Research Council.

Contributions to ANZIAM

Larry Forbes has been, and continues to be, a major contributor to ANZIAM. Aside from his roles as Associate Editor and prolific contributor to the ANZIAM Journal he has been a constant source of inspiration to the many postgraduate students who attend the annual ANZIAM Conference. On three separate occasions Larry has been voted by the students as best presenter at the Conference—a unique achievement—and consequently is the winner of three coveted Cherry Ripe prizes. Larry has also been Convenor of three ANZIAM conferences—another unique contribution. He was Chair of ANZIAM in 2014–2015 and Deputy Chair in 2013 and 2016. He has served more than his fair share of time on the ANZIAM Executive Committee—initially as representative for Queensland but more significantly as representative for Tasmania where, for many years, he was a lone voice. Larry has indeed made a great contribution to ANZIAM.

The selection panel unanimously recommends that Professor Lawrence K Forbes be awarded the ANZIAM Medal for 2020.

On behalf of ANZIAM:

Frank de Hoog (CSIRO);
Phil Howlett (Chair, UniSA);
Vivien Kirk (U Auckland);
Kerry Landman (U Melbourne);
Peter Taylor (U Melbourne).

Updated: 10 Feb 2020