Te Tari Pāngarau me te Tatauranga
Department of Mathematics & Statistics

Recent News

COVID-19 webinar

Professsor Mike Plank (University of Canterbury) gave a webinar on the modelling work done by his team at Te Pūnaha Matatini regarding the spread of COVID-19 in New Zealand.

This webinar was a special installment of the Otago Modellers Group (OMG) seminar series, which aims to connect modellers across all disciplines at the University of Otago. To become involved in the OMG, get in touch with Fabien Montiel.

May 2020

Otago part of world-first trial to prevent TB in people with diabetes

Otago researchers are playing a leadership role in an Euro €4.8 million international project to conduct the world’s first trial attempting to prevent tuberculosis in people with diabetes.

Every year, more than 11 million people worldwide develop tuberculosis (TB) and more than 1.4 million die from the disease. In recent years it has become clear that diabetes is an important factor driving the global tuberculosis epidemic.

University of Otago McAuley Professor of International Health, Professor Philip Hill, explains that diabetes not only increases the risk of tuberculosis, but also leads to more severe and recurrent disease and more deaths from tuberculosis.

“Globally, there are now an estimated 425 million people living with diabetes, but this number will strongly increase over the coming decades, especially in sub-Saharan Africa and other settings with a high burden of TB.

“As such, global TB control can only be successful if TB among people with diabetes is addressed well.”

Professor Hill is excited that scientists from the University’s Global Health Institute will be involved in the European & Developing Countries Clinical Trials Partnership, which is supported by the European Union. He is the lead epidemiologist and biostatistician Professor Katrina Sharples is the lead statistician on the project.

“We know we won’t eliminate TB unless we tackle the huge reservoir of people already infected who do not have disease symptoms. To do this we have to expand our approach to preventing those at increased risk from developing TB disease and people with diabetes are the obvious next target, but we don’t currently have enough information to guide policymakers.”

The consortium will be led by an experienced group of scientists and clinicians in the Netherlands, Uganda, Tanzania, UK and New Zealand.

Three thousand people with diabetes and latent tuberculosis infection in Uganda and Tanzania will either get 12 weekly doses of preventive treatment or placebo and followed over two years to see if this treatment can prevent the disease developing.

In parallel to the trial, 1,000 people with diabetes but without evidence of latent tuberculosis infection, will be followed to confirm the risk of TB in this group is indeed too low to warrant preventive treatment.

“If we are successful, this intervention could see a significant reduction in the burden of TB worldwide,” Professor Hill explains.

March 2020

Statistician gives tips to Powerball hopefuls

Matt Parry featured on Radio NZ and the NZ Herald talking about this week's (almost) record setting Powerball draw.

February 2020

Māori genetics research

Dr Phillip Wilcox's work on developing genomics tools for improving Māori health has been featured in the recent issue of the University's He Kitenga magazine that highlights topical research. This work, co-led by Prof Stephen Robertson, and overseen by a Māori leadership group including Prof Khyla Russell (Ngāi Tahu) and former Minister of Māori Development Te Ururoa Flavell, is the first of its kind and addresses underrepresentation of Māori in genomic tools and databases that could lead to improved health outcomes.

February 2020

Teaching statistics to the UN

John Harraway has been commissioned by the United Nations in Geneva to develop with Sharleen Forbes teaching materials which they can use in staff training and the training of people round the world working in government departments. The material reflects the 17 sustainability principles of the UN and has a particular emphasis on Africa.

Earlier this year John and Sharleen were also appointed by the World Bank, UNESCO and the International Statistics Institute to an Indian Committee to review the Curriculum of a statistics programme taught in Kolkata for people from developing countries working with data and statistics.

John is an Honorary Associate Professor in Statistics.

December 2019

Professor of Statistics

We're delighted Katrina Sharples has been promoted to Professor. Katrina is one of 30 new professors at the University of Otago.

December 2019

University Teaching Development Grant success:

Katrina Sharples, Lisa Avery, Megan Drysdale and Phil Wilcox have been awarded a $20,000 CALT grant.

The aim of the project is to develop an eLearning environment using R Shiny apps to enhance the teaching and learning of introductory statistics. Greater capacity for individual learning, at the pace of the student, will help cater to the wide variety of backgrounds of students taking an introductory statistics paper. The development of a local purpose-built environment provides an opportunity to increase engagement of Māori and Pacific students through use of Te Reo, careful design of the user interface, and the use of examples and data that are relevant.

December 2019

University Teaching Development Grant success:

Associate Professor Boris Baeumer (with co-PIs Dr C. Linsell & A. Knowles) has been awarded a $20,000 CALT grant on

'A sustainable model of support for students with low numeracy'.

December 2019

Phil Wilcox wins Kaupapa Māori Research Award

Dr Phillip Wilcox has been recognised for his contributions in Māori-related research in this year's University of Otago School of Biomedical Sciences awards. Phil is an Affiliate faculty of the Department of Biochemistry and has several longstanding collaborations with Biochemistry faculty in the areas of Māori health, as well as teaching Māori content in genetics and biochemistry papers.

December 2019

Teiteivaki in Maths & Stats

Students with Pacific island descent from South Island schools (years 9 and 10) visited the University of Otago for the very first Teiteivaki organised by the Pacific Island Centre. Lisa Avery (Statistics), Florian Beyer (Maths) and Andrea Knowles (Education) hosted the kids on the morning of November 26 with loads of educational and fun activities. We showed them the importance and relevance of numeracy and that maths is fun!!

December 2019

Welcome to Lisa Avery

We are delighted to welcome Lisa Avery back to our Department as a fixed term lecturer. Lisa has a Masters in Statistics from Otago and is currently a PhD candidate at York University, Canada. Her doctoral work is around regression methods in respondent driven sampling data, a surveying strategy that aims to sample from otherwise hard to reach populations. Other areas of interest are longitudinal modelling of individual characteristics and interrupted time series analysis. She is also a big fan of visualizing data and literate programming with R/R studio. Welcome Lisa!

July 2019

Celebrating Alexander Aitken

An official information board celebrating the life of noted mathematician and author Alexander Aitken has been unveiled. Aitken studied at the University of Otago but spent most of his professional life at the University of Edinburgh. He made hugely influential contributions to statistics, algebra and numerical analysis, and was also involved in decrypting the Enigma code. He was an athlete and gifted musician, and was elected to the Royal Society of Literature for his World War I memoir "Gallipoli to the Somme".

June 2019