Faculty of Science - Leading creativity and innovation in the sciences


Women in Mathematics


The Department of Mathematics recognises that women are systematically under-represented in mathematics and is committed to the promotion of equal opportunities for all. We're really proud of our women mathematicians, and we celebrate some of their stories on this page.

Featured profiles


Professor Hinke Osinga – Photograph taken by Chris Ormerod, La Trobe, Melbourne, 2012
Professor Hinke Osinga

Professor Hinke Osinga

Mathematical abstraction reveals the presence of an interdisciplinary bridge that is often not recognised otherwise.

Hinke is a specialist in dynamical systems theory, the mathematical analysis and prediction of behaviour that changes with time. She is at the forefront of developing and employing numerical methods for computing global objects known as invariant manifolds that are indicators of critical change or tipping points. The main applications of her research are in neuroscience and earthquake engineering, though the strength and beauty of mathematics is that its applicability knows no bounds. "What I find most intriguing about mathematics is that the same mathematical equations can pop up in many different areas of applications and the tools to analyse these equations are the same."

Hinke obtained her PhD in 1996 from the University of Groningen in The Netherlands. She grew up in a small city about 45 km north-west of Groningen in the midst of endless grassland with many many cows; not much unlike New Zealand, really! She had no intention of staying in The Netherland and applied for postdoctoral research positions abroad. She spent almost four year in the USA, first at The Geometry Center in Minneapolis, Minnesota, and then at the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, California. She returned to Europe just before the start of the new millennium, as a (permanent) Lecturer at the University of Exeter in the UK; she joined the University of Bristol in 2001, where she was promoted to Reader in 2005 and Professor in 2011, only months before she moved to New Zealand to take up the position of Professor of Applied Mathematics at the University of Auckland. While at Bristol, she held an Advanced Research Fellowship from the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (2005-2011) on Global Invariant Manifolds: Applications, Critical Boundaries and Global Bifurcations. Her research constitutes a significant contribution to manifold theory, for which she was awarded the Research Award of the New Zealand Mathematical Society. Her international standing was recognised by her invitation to speak at the 2014 International Congress of Mathematicians, and by her selection as Fellow of the Society for Industrial and Applied Mathematics (USA) in 2015 and Fellow of the Royal Society of New Zealand in 2016.

Her publications, illustrations, animations and outreach activities have made her famous worldwide in the mathematics and arts communities. She is best known for the computation and visualisation of the Lorenz manifold, the global stable manifold of the origin of the famous Lorenz system. Jointly with Bernd Krauskopf, this research direction involves the study of chaotic attractors and other exotic mathematical objects, like wild chaos, heteroclinic tangles, and Cantor cheese. Hinke's research turned into a serious hands-on activity when she and Bernd realised that the computer output of their algorithms could be read as crochet instructions. The first crocheted Lorenz manifold came into existence in May 2003, but more followed after the crochet instructions were published as part of the scientific paper in The Mathematical Intelligencer. For more information, pictures, and animations, please visit the dedicated website Crocheting the Lorenz manifold.

 

Associate Professor Vivien Kirk
Associate Professor Vivien Kirk

Associate Professor Vivien Kirk

Vivien Kirk became a mathematician partly by accident. She enjoyed mathematics and physics at school and majored in both for her undergraduate degree but, by the time she did her masters, she had decided to be a physicist.

Her PhD was in a department of applied mathematics and theoretical physics (at the University of Cambridge). She remembers feeling determined, at the start of her PhD, to stay a physicist.

“I don't know what it was about my experience of mathematics and physics or the culture of mathematics and physics departments that made me feel that way, but I was clear I identified more as a physicist at that stage.

"However, the area in which I worked for my PhD – dynamical systems – fits naturally in mathematics departments, and my first job was in a mathematics department. I have happily thought of myself as a mathematician ever since.”

Historical contingency aside, Vivien really enjoys the intellectual style of the mathematics she does. “I like the mix of theory, computation and application to the physical world, and love the feeling that comes when ideas that were muddled become clear and patterns emerge from the murk. 

"I also enjoy the wider academic environment provided by universities, particularly opportunities to engage with students and to hear about the academic activities of colleagues and visitors from a range of disciplines beyond mathematics.”

Vivien worked part-time for about 10 years when she had young children. Combining a research career with a young family presented some challenges, not least because having very young children makes it much harder to travel to conferences or to visit colleagues.

“But it was always great fun, and having children certainly provided some balance in my life. Now my children are young adults, and cook me dinner more often than I cook for them!”

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