Jim Hill

Emeritus Professor

Citation delivered by Professor Chris Cook, Executive Dean of the Faculty of Engineering and Information Sciences at the University of Wollongong on the occasion of the admission of James Murray Hill as an Emeritus Professor of the University on 16 December 2015.

Chancellor, I present Jim Hill.

As the University draws to a close on its celebration of 40 years as an independent institution, it is my pleasure to welcome back to this University a man who joined the newly established University of Wollongong in 1975 as a budding young Lecturer, and who would go on to dedicate 35 years of outstanding service to this institution. That man is the now esteemed Professor Jim Hill, whose outstanding contribution to the University of Wollongong (UOW) is celebrated today.

Born in Blackburn, England Jim Hill spent his formative academic years at the University of Durham in the United Kingdom and then the University of Queensland, receiving a Bachelor of Science (First Class Honours) in 1969 and his PhD in 1972 from the latter. Appointed to a lectureship at the University of Southern Queensland for a year, Jim then joined the University of Nottingham in the UK, staying for two years.

Returning to Australia in 1975, Jim took up a lectureship at the University of Wollongong – the start of a long and fruitful relationship. Progressing to Senior Lecturer and then Reader, Jim was appointed Professor of Mathematics and to the first University Personal Chair at UOW in 1988. Throughout his time here, Jim played a major role in establishing the reputation of the University as a place of notable international mathematics research and was instrumental in establishing the University’s early research reputation.

Whilst at UOW, Jim published over 300 research articles in high-quality international journals and gained almost $5 million in research funding, including two prestigious Research Fellowships from the Australian Research Council (ARC), a Senior Research Fellowship in 1997 to work on Granular Materials and an Australian Professorial Fellowship in 2004, to work on Nanomechanics.

Jim enthusiastically mentored many honours and PhD students, post-doctoral appointments and younger staff, all of whom now pursue their own successful careers, and regards his mentorship of these people as his most important contribution to date and the major outcome of his working life as a research mathematician.

While Jim currently works in the field of nanotechnology, his interdisciplinary research is internationally recognised for its wide-ranging impact, variety and depth. His research leadership and intellectual contribution to his fields of research have been remarkable. Jim’s colleagues are effusive in their praise. Professor A.P.S. Selvadurai of McGill University, Canada described Jim as ‘the foremost theoretical solid mechanicist that Australia has produced over the past three decades’, who has ‘developed excellent links with industry both in terms of identifying new research directions and obtaining industrial sponsorship and support for developing sustained research efforts.’ Professor J.R. Willis of the University of Cambridge, England describes Jim as a ‘leader in Applied Mathematics in Australia’, whose ‘energy, intellectual strength and sheer resourcefulness have been and remain exceptional.’ Described by another as ‘one of the leading applied mathematicians of our time’, Professor Hill’s ability to nurture creativity and cross disciplinary boundaries have inspired younger generation scientists to achieve above and beyond.

Jim’s advice for mathematics students is to think of their mathematical knowledge and skills in terms of what the planet needs. That is, one should try to be as open as possible to other areas of science, engineering and technology; and to try to communicate with people from these disciplines to develop a sense of the breadth of important problems that require mathematical approaches in developing solutions. Research mathematicians may forget that the actual level of mathematical skill required in the real world is often much less and requires a different approach from that which their training has provided.

In 2008, Professor Hill received the Australian and New Zealand Industrial and Applied Mathematics (ANZIAM) Medal, their highest honour, in recognition of his research achievements and his sustained contribution to Applied and Industrial Mathematics. His contributions to the development of research and teaching of applied mathematics in Australia has been well recognised through induction as a Companion of the Institution of Engineers, Australia and election as Fellow of the Institute of Mathematics and its Application (UK).

Supported by his wife, Jessica, Jim has created a profound legacy at the University of Wollongong. Since leaving the University of Wollongong in 2010, he has held professorial positions at the University of Adelaide and at the University of South Australia, but continues to collaborate with UOW. We warmly welcome him back today.

Chancellor, for his significant service to this University and his outstanding scholarship, it is a privilege and pleasure to present Jim Hill for admission as an Emeritus Professor of the University of Wollongong.