Current Postgraduate Students


Aidin Jalilzadeh

After a first degree in Civil Engineering from Amir Kabir University of Technology (Tehran-Iran), I decided to change direction and study mathematics. I always loved maths at school and it runs in my blood since my father was also a mathematician.

Why Otago? I was first introduced to Otago via one of my father’s students who did his PhD here. He strongly recommended the University and the city of Dunedin as an ideal environment for studying, living and having fun. Now, after nearly six years, I should say that I have made the right choice. Friendly, supportive and approachable academic staff and easy access to the research material (both physical and electronic databases) make Otago a perfect choice for anyone who would like to carry out a world-class research degree. That’s why I didn’t want to go anywhere else for my PhD; in fact throughout all these years at Otago, I have enjoyed every moment of it.

Research? The field of computational immunology is a relatively well established area of research these days. Over all, mathematical modelling of biological phenomena such as immune system with the aim of making accurate predictions has gathered pace and at present is a very active and interesting area of research.

After I completed my MSc in mathematics I took an Assistant Research Fellowship position at the Department of Preventive and Social Medicine (Dunedin School of Medicine) as a mathematical modeller. I worked with José García on modelling genetic associated signalling pathways in breast cancer. There I became more closely exposed to mathematical models in medicine particularly, computational immunology and systems biology. I was absolutely fascinated by the strength of computerised simulations.

Hence I decided to work on computational immunology for my PhD. I will be working with Dr José García (immunologist) and Dr Boris Baeumer from Mathematics. The purpose is to develop in silico spatio-temporal models that simulate the entire process of inflammatory response in tissue, including innate and adaptive response. Further more, we would like to employ these models to obtain a better understanding of autoimmunity, which causes the so-called autoimmune diseases. Also the immune system is known to have a paradoxical role in the promotion of cancers. Ultimately, we are hoping to explore more in this respect too. Being located in Dunedin and having Medical School and the hospital at our disposal is a great advantage for my project in terms of having access to a variety of relevant data.


Janine Wright

I grew up in Mosgiel, Dunedin. Naturally I attended the local university (Otago) and graduated with a BSc in Zoology (a number of mathematics and statistics papers were included in this degree). I also have a Diploma in Teaching (Secondary) and a Postgraduate Diploma in Applied Statistics from Otago which was completed while on study leave from my position teaching Mathematics and Biology at Otago Girls High School.

Why Otago? Studying at Otago was the obvious choice for me (and still is). We locals are very, very lucky to have such a great university right on our doorstep. I saw no need to look any further afield. Another reason for choosing Otago was that my supervisor (Professor Richard Barker) was based in the Mathematics and Statistics Department and I was fortunate to have him agree to oversee my PhD.

Research? My research involves the use of genetic tags (DNA derived from material collected non-invasively, such as hair or faeces) to identify individual animals. This technique is being increasingly used in wildlife studies. Non-invasive genetic sampling has many advantages and huge potential, but while it is possible to generate significant amounts of data from these non-invasive sources of DNA, the biggest challenge in the application of the approach is overcoming errors inherent in samples collected. Genotyping errors arise when the poor sample quality due to an insufficient quantity of DNA leads to failure of DNA amplification at one or more loci. This has the effect of heterozygous individuals being scored as homozygotes at those loci as only one allele is detected (termed ‘allelic drop-out’). These error rates will be specific to a species, and will depend on the source of samples and the way the samples have been handled. If errors go undetected and the genotypes are naively used in mark-recapture models, significant overestimates of population size can occur. With good quality DNA genotyping error is negligible. Traditionally low quality samples have been rejected and without developing a method of allowing for allelic dropout this rejection rate is high. It would be preferable to retain these low quality samples as they still contain usable information in the form of partial genotypes. Using data from the brush-tailed possum in New Zealand and the European badger we are developing a method based on Bayesian imputation that allows us to model data from samples that include uncertain genotypes.


John S Parker




Jordana

I grew up in South Otago and graduated from Otago in 2001 with a BA(Hons) in Mathematics and Statistics combined. After a year trying out various jobs, I decided to train as a teacher (once again, Dunedin was my choice). I graduated from the Dunedin College of Education in 2002 with a Graduate Diploma in Teaching (Secondary) with Mathematics and Music as my teaching specialties. My husband was working on a dairy farm in South Otago at the time and so my life came full circle as I ended up teaching at my old high school. I spent 4 years there taking on various responsibilities including: organising mathletics competitions for local primary schools, organising a programme for gifted students, numeracy development, and running the Level 1 NCEA Maths programme. I have 2 children (aged five and three) and have completed the majority of my research whilst at home looking after them. I am currently teaching full time (at my old high school) again, and am about to complete my first draft, having worked part time on thesis writing in each set of school holidays.

Why Otago? At the time of my enrolment for my PhD, Otago seemed a natural choice because of its closeness to where I was living at the time. I also felt like I was part of the Maths family, having kept in touch with various members of the department since my graduation. The other main motivator was that one of the experts in my field of research is at Otago and I feel honoured to be able to work under his supervision. Although all 3 of my supervisors are now overseas, I continue my research through Otago by maintaining regular email contact with them.

Research? My research topic is in the field of gifted education. I am investigating whether there are any patterns in the language of gifted maths students. My analysis methods are purely from a linguistics perspective, using a systemic functional grammar approach. I am treating the mathematical expressions that students have used in their proofs as “sentences” which make up a text. The data I have collected is made up of verbal classroom interactions and written exam scripts from a training camp for the International Mathematics Olympiad. I am focussing on the 14 senior students who were at this initial training camp. Eventually the pool was narrowed to approximately 6 students who made the final squad and competed against the rest of the world in July 2007. The results of my analysis suggest that successful students communicate differently to other students. They use different connecting words between their “sentences”, different “sentence” structures, and different argument patterns.


Jordana Norrish

I am a Dunedin person, having lived here all my life apart from a year travelling in Europe and Asia and I love it here. A product of the University of Otago Mathematics Dept, I completed a BA in Mathematics in 1978 under the guidance of a number of lecturers who are still in the department. After completing a Diploma of Teaching I taught Mathematics at Queens High School for 15 years and was HOD Mathematics at St Hilda’s. Presently I am HOD Mathematics at the Dunedin College of Education, where I have worked for 5 years.

Research? My Post Graduate Diploma focused on Education with a research paper on The needs of beginning teachers of mathematics. For my Master thesis I am doing a case study of a local Intermediate (Year 7 and 8) in which I am working as a facilitator for the Intermediate Numeracy Project (INP). The INP is a Ministry of Education funded, professional development programme focusing on the teaching of Numeracy in year 7 and 8 classes.

The purpose of my research is to determine the impact of Intermediate Number on the classroom practice of the teachers involved at one Intermediate School. I hope to undertake an evaluation of the factors and experiences that the teachers report influence change in their approaches to teaching and learning in Mathematics, with a particular focus on strategic thinking and knowledge development within the area of Numeracy. The project aims to determine the sustainability of any changes brought about by the conditions of the one-year INP intervention by monitoring changing classroom practices in Numeracy teaching and learning during the intervention year and the year following.


Julie Anderson

I am a Dunedin person, having lived here all my life apart from a year travelling in Europe and Asia and I love it here. A product of the University of Otago Mathematics Dept, I completed a BA in Mathematics in 1978 under the guidance of a number of lecturers who are still in the department. After completing a Diploma of Teaching I taught Mathematics at Queens High School for 15 years and was HOD Mathematics at St Hilda’s. Presently I am HOD Mathematics at the Dunedin College of Education, where I have worked for 5 years.

Research? My Post Graduate Diploma focused on Education with a research paper on The needs of beginning teachers of mathematics. For my Master thesis I am doing a case study of a local Intermediate (Year 7 and 8) in which I am working as a facilitator for the Intermediate Numeracy Project (INP). The INP is a Ministry of Education funded, professional development programme focusing on the teaching of Numeracy in year 7 and 8 classes.

The purpose of my research is to determine the impact of Intermediate Number on the classroom practice of the teachers involved at one Intermediate School. I hope to undertake an evaluation of the factors and experiences that the teachers report influence change in their approaches to teaching and learning in Mathematics, with a particular focus on strategic thinking and knowledge development within the area of Numeracy. The project aims to determine the sustainability of any changes brought about by the conditions of the one-year INP intervention by monitoring changing classroom practices in Numeracy teaching and learning during the intervention year and the year following.


Lee Ya Ling

I was raised up in Malaysia with a passion for education. My teaching career began when I was a teenager. I gave home tuition to primary students. Subsequently, I taught mathematics in primary and secondary schools. I became a mathematics lecturer at Open University Malaysia after completing my undergraduate and masters degree in mathematics and education.

Why Otago? I was introduced to the education in New Zealand through articles and books. What impressed me is the flexible, lively and fun learning environment. I wish to learn more about the New Zealand culture and education. I have contacted Professor Derek Holton, who is now my PhD supervisor. He has given me a very friendly and helpful impression and hence enhances my confidence in the University of Otago.

Research? I have observed that many students “shy away” from mathematics. They perceive that learning mathematics is “boring” stuff. Therefore, my PhD research will focus on using games in teaching and learning mathematics and I hope to make learning mathematics interesting and meaningful. Specifically, I will investigate how games can enhance students’ mathematical thinking.


Miaohe Chin

I grew up in Guangdong, China, and immigrated to New Zealand after I finished intermediate school. Having lived in Wellington for 10 years, with most of my family living in Wellington, I consider Wellington as my home. But I love it here in Otago. It’s my 2nd year in Otago. I am a life-long learner, there are so many things I want to learn, and I always keep myself busy. I love travel; I spend a few weeks or a few months travelling domestically or overseas every year. I completed my BA degree in Mathematics with some statistics and economics papers from Otago University and BA(Hons) in Mathematics from Victoria University of Wellington.

Why Otago? At first, I just wanted to have some other university experience and most of my friends recommended Otago University as the best university in New Zealand. I think they were right. Otago is a relaxed place to live and study, and the staff here are very approachable, especially Dr John Clark who is now my supervisor.

Research? I am doing an MSc (thesis only) on ring theory, in particular on clear rings. These were first introduced by Nicholson in 1977 with the title ‘Lifting idempotents and exchange rings’. They became very popular and have been largely developed by Nicholson himself, Camillo and some Chinese mathematicians since 2000.


Peter Green

I grew up in Taranaki. I travelled north for my undergraduate studies, where I majored in Mathematics and Computer Science at the University of Auckland, before working as a computer programmer.

Later I came south to Dunedin to study economics, completing an MBus in 2007 with research into computer modelling of minimum wage policy.

I am now working towards a PhD in Statistics.

Research?

My research goal is to evaluate the statistical properties of methods for combining multiple proxy records into temperature histories for the late Holocene. Estimates of past temperatures are important for constraining climate sensitivity through a better understanding of the range of natural variation, as well as for placing modern anthropogenic warming into historical context.


Warren Palmer

I am Dunedin born and bred. My first degree (1971-1974) at the University of Otago was a BA(Hons) in English. Because my father was ill from cigarette smoking (he died during the third year of my degree), there were financial pressures and I accepted a Secondary Studentship. This meant that I received money to study (those were the days!) and in return I had to teach for the same number of years. When I went looking for jobs there was only one teaching position in English in the whole South Island (who wants to go North?), but fortunately I had a second string to my bow and I became a secondary mathematics teacher (there is always a shortage of maths teachers).

While teaching full-time I began to take a paper or two part-time at Otago and after a few years I found myself completing a second degree. I concentrated on Statistics towards the end because, believe it or not, it is a fascinating subject. By the end of 1998 I had completed a BSc. It had taken me 18 years.

As soon as I completed this degree, I took a mid-life crisis career choice and resigned from teaching. I began to study towards an MSc in Statistics, with papers in the first year, followed by a thesis (which is meant to take one year but stretched on and on...). I was finally awarded my MSc in May 2007.

I have also been teaching part-time in the Mathematics and Statistics Department here at Otago.

Why Otago? As I said above, where else? Perhaps I am biased, because I have lived in Dunedin all my life, but in my opinion this University has everything you could want.

Research? I began research towards my PhD in 2006. After an 8 year gap I have returned to mathematics education for my field of research and I am investigating the effects of CAS (Computer Algebraic System) calculators in junior secondary classrooms. This has involved visiting a number of Dunedin classes which use CAS calculators in their Algebra and Geometry lessons. The key question is what conceptual skills students gain through using the calculators, and whether they lose manipulative skills in the process.

I have also been employed for several years as the manager of The National Bank Junior Mathematics Competition. This competition has led to several ideas for research papers dealing with how students attempt to solve mathematical problems. The competition has its own webpage which may be reached through the Schools section of the Department home page.


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