New Students

This month and over the next month, we have has quite a few students joining SMS:

Marina Dorszhieva is joining us from Auckland. She has been working under the supervision of Sasha Melnikov who recently joined SMS staff from Massey University. Once she is able to leave Auckland lockdown, She is coming down to join our school for the remainder of her PhD.

Mian Wang has also joined us from overseas. She will be working with Binh Nguyen on her PhD. As with a few of our other remote PhDs - we hope Mian will join us soon once the boarders open up!

Ying Cui is also returning to study with us. While she is currently overseas, Ying has studied with SMS in the past for her Bachelors and Masters. Ying will be working with Ivy Liu, Richard Arnold and Louise McMillan through her PhD.

We warmly welcome all of you and look forward to seeing you on campus soon!

Upcoming MSc & PhD Lockdown Suspension

FGR Board has agreed that we should offer a one month retrospective suspension to those research students who were unable to do research during the lockdown or who had experiments that will have to be redone because of the lockdown. This email is to explain how we will process the applications, as it is different to usual. A separate email will be sent out which can be sent to students, explaining how they apply.

Given the immense effort that it took to process last year’s lockdown suspensions, FGR has decided to expedite the process by automating part of it and by allowing bulk approval of multiple applications by the Associate Dean (PGR).

The process is as follows
  • a student completes a Microsoft Form to apply for this particular suspension (this will put all the applications automatically into a spreadsheet maintained by FGR, and will email a confirmation to the student and their supervisor)
  • do not ask for supervisors’ approval at this point
  • do not process applications immediately but wait for a deadline for all applications (Friday 8 October)
  • once the deadline has passed, FGR Admin will send to each Associate Dean (PGR) a list of all applications to assess and approve in bulk on behalf of the supervisors in that Faculty
  • Associate Dean will check with supervisors only on cases where they need further information - this is our check against inappropriate applications
  • all approved applications go to Dean FGR for final sign-off
  • FGR and Faculty Admins collectively work to update students’ Banner records and notify students and supervisors
  • Scholarship Office will adjust scholarship payments for affected students
This replaces the supervisor approval step with a bulk approval by Associate Dean on behalf of all the supervisors in that Faculty. This assumes that most cases will be straightforward and will not need the AD to check with all the supervisors.

The application Form is here:

This is a special form designed for this special suspension only. Please do not use it for other suspensions. FGR has a separate project which is looking to streamline the usual suspension process.

Move to FEng Postgraduate Database

As part of the move from Science Faculty to Faculty of Engineering, SMS thesis students have been added to the FEng Thesis Students Database. As part of this database, there will be automated email reminders sent out for various milestones in your research. These reminders differ slightly between PhD and Masters.

PhD Reminders:
  • 9 month proposal: You have reached 9 months equivalent full time enrolment (FTE) and are now able to submit your proposal between now at 12 months FTE.
  • Proposal Late: To be sent if you pass 12 months FTE without submitting your proposal
  • CDP reminder: This is sent leading up to CDPs opening, with instructions on accessing research master and completing your CDP
  • Scholarship Reminders: Sent a few months before your 36months FTE with instructions on how to apply for submission scholarships etc.
MSc Reminders:
  • Proposal/1 month confirmation: Sent 1 week out from your proposal submission deadline to ensure you have access to the relevant forms etc
  • 3 month report: Sent before your 3 month report deadline to make sure you have access to the form
  • 8 month report: Sent before your 8 month report deadline to make sure you have access to the form
If you have any questions about the emails, feel free to email Caitlin or the School Office.

TurnItIn for Proofing Theses

TurnItIn is a great application for checking that you have cited and referenced correctly throughout your thesis. As part of our transfer to the Faculty of Engineering, we have been granted access to TurnItIn for thesis students.

If you would like to proof your proposal or thesis, email Caitlin for access to the thesis student class. You will need to include your full name and preferred email address in order to be added. Once you have been added, you will receive an email with instructions on how to log in.

PGSA Landers Award

The PGSA administers the Landers Postgraduate Award - a monetary prize awarded for the contribution of one postgraduate student in fostering the stated ideals of the Postgraduate Students' Association: That student will have demonstrated an unstinting commitment to fostering camaraderie and collective consciousness among his/her colleagues in the postgraduate community.

Any member of the VUW community may put forward a nomination, but the nominee must be a current postgraduate student at VUW. One finalist is shortlisted from each school or faculty, and postgraduates will be invited to vote on a winner. The recipient will receive a $500 cash award and a framed certificate.

The deadline for nominations is 8 October 2021.

Nominate somone for the award here.

Upcoming Events

Optimal decision making: a tribute to female ingenuity - Prof Kate Smith-Miles & Alison Harcourt AO (Tuesday 12th October, 2pm-3pm NZT)

Optimisation is the branch of mathematics that supports optimal decision-making. Mathematics is needed when there are too many choices available, too many rules to satisfy, and too many goals to be achieved - to find the perfect solution without mathematical help.

In this lecture, Kate Smith-Miles and Alison Harcourt will discuss how everyday decisions – made by governments and corporations, and everyday people when using apps like Google Maps - are powered by optimisation techniques. They will take a whirlwind tour through some of the breakthrough ideas that have enabled optimisation techniques to help us make decisions faster, better, and cheaper.

Some of these breakthrough ideas have been due to female ingenuity, and on this Ada Lovelace Day, we will pay tribute to the game-changing contributions of two more remarkable women – Ailsa Land and Alison Harcourt (née Doig).

Their idea changed the course of optimisation technique development and paved the way for optimisation to have the impact we see in the world today. We will hear Alison tell the tale of their idea and what happened next.

Finally, we will look at the future challenges of optimisation, and the opportunities for new ideas to continue to create an impact in the world.

About the speakers

Kate Smith-Miles is a Professor of Applied Mathematics, Chief Investigator with the ARC Centre of Excellence for Mathematical and Statistical Frontiers (ACEMS), and an Australian Laureate Fellow at The University of Melbourne. She graduated from The University of Melbourne with a BSc(Hons) in mathematics, and a PhD in electrical engineering, before commencing her academic career in 1996 at Monash University. Returning to The University of Melbourne in 2017, she is currently Associate Dean (Enterprise and Innovation) for the Faculty of Science, and Director of the ARC Industrial Transformation Training Centre for Optimisation Technologies, Integrated Methodologies, and Applications (OPTIMA). Passionate about interdisciplinary applications of mathematics, her award-winning research in optimisation, machine learning, and mathematical modelling has found application in many fields as diverse as manufacturing design, epidemiology, computer vision, finance, and stem cell modelling.

Alison Harcourt AO (nee Doig) completed a BA(Hons)(1950), BSc(1952), and MA(1958) at the University of Melbourne, majoring in mathematics and statistics. Alison is a pioneer in the field of optimisation, having co-authored the seminal paper: A. H. Land and A. G. Doig, An Automatic Method of Solving Discrete Programming Problems, Econometrica, vol. 28, no. 3, 1960. This ground-breaking paper is well-known to researchers in optimisation since it proposed a method for solving integer programming problems which later became known as the "branch-and-bound" method. It underpins modern day optimisation software packages that provide efficient solutions to challenging combinatorial optimisation problems. Applications include logistics, transportation, scheduling, telecommunications, and radiotherapy treatment planning.

Alison's statistical analyses have had profound impacts influencing government policy. Examples include the first attempts to estimate poverty in Australia (informing the 1972 Royal Commission of Inquiry into Poverty, work headed by Professor Ronald Henderson) and, in conjunction with Dr Malcolm Clark, a statistical analysis of bias that led to an amendment of the Commonwealth Electoral Act in 1984. This amendment introduced a ‘double randomisation’ method for allocating positions of political parties on ballot papers, which is still used today.

Alison was foundation secretary of the Victorian branch of the Statistical Society of Australia (1963-1967), and has co-authored two books and written numerous journal articles.

Today, she continues to teach as a sessional tutor in undergraduate statistics subjects at the University.

In 2018, in recognition of her significant achievements and contributions to society, the University of Melbourne awarded its highest honour, the degree of Doctor of Science(honoris causa) to Alison. She was also named the 2019 Victorian Senior Australian of the Year.

If you are interested in attending, register here.

International "edit-a-thon" to showcase women in science - Tuesday 12th October

On 12 October Wikipedians from Aotearoa New Zealand are holding a workshop to teach people how to increase the presence of notable women in STEM on Wikipedia.

Currently only 19% of Wikipedia biographies are about women. We invite you to learn how to increase the presence of women in STEM on Wikipedia by joining an upcoming workshop run by New and Australian Wikipedians. You will be joining an international Women in Red community and will learn how you can make a difference by writing in Wikipedia about amazing notable women in STEM.
  • Held on Ada Lovelace Day, 12 Oct 2021 there are four sessions to choose from, all held on Zoom: 12noon, 2.30pm, 5pm and 8.30pm (NZST)
This is part of an international 24 hour event with Australia and New Zealand passing the baton to Asia and Africa and then to the UK and the USA, before finishing back in New Zealand.

You can sign up on the event page at Ada Lovelace Day: 24-Hour Global Edit-a-thon or get in touch with New Zealand coordinator Lisa Maule ( for any further information or questions.

Statistical Methodology Development & Software Dissemination - Distinguished Prof Matt Wand (Thursday 28th October, 2pm-3pm NZT)

Professor Matt Wand has been involved in statistical methodology research since the mid-1980s. During the second millennium, the internet either did not exist or was in its infancy and software dissemination was primitive. The advent of the internet and the establishment of websites such as the Comprehensive R Archive Network, which officially started February 2000 - have had a profound impact on applied and methodological statistics.

In this lecture, Matt will discuss statistical methodology development in the context of this relatively new era of organised software dissemination. He will address specific questions like:
  • are traditional reward systems concerning promotion, grants, and other awards compatible with the organised software dissemination sea-change?
  • who are the heroes and role models?
  • and what is really like to produce and disseminate polished user-ready software after you have developed a new statistical method?
This public lecture will be 45 minute presentation followed by Q & A.

About the speaker

Matt P. Wand is a Distinguished Professor of Statistics at the University of Technology Sydney, and Chief Investigator for the ARC Centre of Excellence for Mathematical and Statistical Frontiers (ACEMS).

He has held faculty appointments at Harvard University, Rice University, Texas A&M University, the University of New South Wales, and the University of Wollongong. Professor Wand is an elected fellow of the Australian Academy of Science, the American Statistical Association, and the Institute of Mathematical Statistics.

He was awarded two of the Australian Academy of Science's medals for statistical research: the Moran Medal in 1997 and the Hannan Medal in 2013. In 2013 he was awarded the Statistical Society of Australia's Pitman Medal. He has served as an associate editor for several journals including Biometrika, Journal of the American Statistical Association and Statistica Sinica.

He has co-authored 3 books, more than 125 statistics journal articles and 8 R packages.

If you are interested in attending this event, register here.


Rosemary Seymour Research & Archives Award

In 1974 Rosemary Seymour, a Waikato sociologist, initiated a newsletter and a network of women interested in women’s studies, that evolved into the Women’s Studies Association (NZ)/ Pae Akoranga Wāhine. In 1985 this fund was established in her memory. This year the fund will enable us to make two awards of $1000 each, one for which only Māori women may apply, while the second is open to all women. Women’s groups may also apply, for either award.

There is no form to fill out. Written applications, sent as a Word or pdf document attachment, should include the following:
  • Name of the applicant;
  • For Māori applicants: iwi and hapū, or geographic region;
  • Postal address;
  • Title and aim of project;
  • Institutional affiliation or organisational involvement, if any;
  • Purpose/Justification;
  • Brief literature relevant to this project, if any;
  • Research strategies;
  • Relationship between the project and the Aims of the Association, listed below (this is mandatory);
  • How the award will be used. Give some indication of the budget for the study, and the way in which the grant would contribute to the completion of the project;
  • Other sources of funding for this project (please indicate these sources);
  • If you are enrolled as a student, please state your course (e.g. M.Sc., M.A., PhD) and what year of study you are in;
  • Please state in your email letter if you are applying for the Open to All Women award or the Māori Women award. You cannot apply for both awards.
Applications should be sent by email attachment no earlier than 1st August and by 31st October, to Dr Julie Benjamin at: Please use your last name, then first name, in your Word or pdf file name, eg SMITH_ANNA

Aims of Women’s Studies Association (NZ)/Pae Akoranga Wāhine

The WSA (NZ)/Pae Akoranga Wāhine is a feminist organisation formed to promote radical social change through the medium of women’s studies. We believe that a feminist perspective necessarily acknowledges oppression on the grounds of race, sexuality, class and disability as well as gender. We acknowledge Māori as tangata whenua of Aotearoa. This means that we have a particular responsibility to address their oppression among our work and activities.

The principles of the Association are:
  • To undertake, promote and disseminate research about women by women from a feminist perspective
  • To inform and educate women about women in culturally appropriate ways
  • To encourage the preservation of existing material about women in culturally appropriate ways
  • To facilitate the establishment of women’s studies courses with a feminist perspective
  • To undertake and promote the publication of material about women
  • To organise and participate in activities, conferences, seminars and displays in furtherance of the aims of the organisation.

Zonta 17th Biennial Science 2022 Award

The Zonta Science Award is a post-doctoral Award for New Zealand women scientists. The Award is aimed at an emerging scientist rather than someone well-established in their career. Preference is given to a woman within seven years of obtaining her PhD, working or studying within the STEM fields (science, technology, engineering, mathematics).

The Award recipient receives $25,000 cash to fund travel, education, materials and /or activities that will advance her research and career,

Applications close midnight on Monday 10th January 2022

For more information, visit the webpage.

Yvonne A M Smith Charitable Trust Scholarship 2022

The Yvonne Smith scholarship fund was set up in 1999 to encourage and promote women as future leaders of New Zealand business and society. The value of the scholarship may be as high as $60,000, which compares with the Fulbright and Rhodes scholarships. It is open to women of all ages undertaking post-graduate studies in subject areas of political studies, economics, business and law. The scholarship can also be held in conjunction with other awards.

The scholarship is awarded to the candidate who best exemplifies potential leadership in their field as well as demonstrating the potential to make a significant contribution to New Zealand.

For more information, visit the webpage.