Esteemed mathematician named as inaugural Tibra Foundation Chair
Statistician Professor Sumeetpal Singh will join UOW in 2023
From cybersecurity, AI, and robotics to analysing climate change and the spread of a global pandemic, mathematical sciences permeate every thread of our lives, impacting our professional, academic and everyday activities.
In 2020 – in a bid to counter the declining role of mathematics in Australia – the Tibra Foundation, a philanthropic arm of the finance company Tibra Capital, funded a $1.25m professorial chair in mathematical sciences to be based at the University of Wollongong (UOW). It was the country’s first philanthropically endowed chair in the mathematical sciences in over a century. This year, after a meticulous two-year recruitment process, the position has been filled.
The head of the School of Mathematics and Applied Statistics, Associate Professor Maureen Edwards, said she was delighted to announce that early in 2023, UOW will welcome Professor Sumeetpal Singh, an esteemed Australian statistician, to become the Tibra Chair in Mathematical Sciences within the National Institute for Applied Statistics Research Australia (NIASRA).
Professor Singh – who joins UOW from the University of Cambridge, UK – will be responsible for developing a world-leading research program in computational statistics and its applications.
“Our school has established an enviable reputation for being research-intensive, and our academic research staff are internationally recognised as leaders in their respective fields. We’re extremely excited to have Professor Singh join and support our team to grow,” Associate Professor Edwards said.
NIASRA’s Director Professor Marijka Batterham added: “Professor Singh will complement our existing research strengths in environmental informatics, health and social analytics, and experimental design.”
Professor Singh’s area of expertise is statistical signal processing and computational statistics, and his work covers theory, methodology and applications. He is well known for his contributions to computational statistics, in particular to Sequential Monte Carlo and Markov Chain Monte Carlo methods, which are some of the most effective computational techniques for contemporary data science.
He has also excelled in his applied work – in 2013, his work on Multi-target Tracking received international recognition and won the prestigious IEEE M. Barry Carlton Award. Through his cross-disciplinary research contributions, Professor Singh holds editorial roles in both engineering and statistical scientific journals.
Before his UOW appointment, Professor Singh was a Professor of Engineering Statistics and Head of Signal Processing and Communications Laboratory in the Department of Engineering at the University of Cambridge. He has also held the positions of Chair of Teaching in Information Engineering, Fellow of the Alan Turing Institute, and at Churchill College, UK, where he was both a Fellow and a Director of Studies in Engineering.
Professor Singh’s move to Australia at the beginning of 2023 will also be a homecoming. Born in Malaysia, Professor Singh moved to Australia at the age of 18 to study engineering at the University of Melbourne. There, he obtained a Bachelor of Engineering, majoring in communications engineering, and then continued to pursue a PhD in Electrical Engineering.
“As a mathematician with an engineering background, mathematics has never been an abstract pursuit for me. I’ve always worked with the end-user in mind and, ideally, aimed to produce work with potential societal impacts. These have and continue to be the driving tenets of my academic career since data science has plenty of practical applications,” Professor Singh said.
Under the leadership of Professor Singh, the Tibra Chair will support excellence in statistics and mathematics at UOW while highlighting the vital contribution mathematics makes to Australia’s social and economic wellbeing. Professor Singh’s work also aims to raise awareness of the diversified career opportunities of math degrees.
“UOW’s particular strength is statistics, and together, we can work on raising the profiles of Australian mathematicians and an awareness of the world-class research happening here,” Professor Singh said.
The new Tibra Chair in Mathematical Sciences Professor Sumeetpal Singh with Tim Berry, co-founder of Tibra Capital.
Arman Schwarz from the Tibra Foundation said that Professor Singh would be a vital asset for the Illawarra.
“Since its inception, the Tibra Foundation’s purpose has always been to see the field of mathematics grow and thrive in Australia, particularly as we’ve seen a significant shortage of skills in this area. I think it’s so fitting to have a talented and impactful mathematician return home to Australia to fill this position. We look forward to working with Professor Singh and the University to highlight the bright future awaiting aspiring mathematicians,” Arman Schwarz said.
For his Australian tenure, Professor Singh has an additional goal in mind. He’d like to create a youth-oriented program of activities in Data Science to be used as part of outreach to schools.
“We need to raise awareness and excitement for mathematics and statistics among young people. I’d like them to see the potential impact of a career in mathematics,” Professor Singh said.