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Spotlight on our staff and students

The School of Mathematics and Statistics at UNSW is a lively place with a diverse group of staff and students. Want to know more about them?

Here, we spotlight the staff and students of the School. What drew them towards mathematics and statistics? What attracted them to the School? Do they fit the stereotype of a mathematician or maths student?

Here, they reveal their adventures in mathematics and statistics…


Dr Zdravko Botev is a Lecturer in Statistics. What attracted him to his role in the School? Why does he enjoy teaching UNSW students? And why does the study of probability fascinate him? Find out here!

Dr Thomas Britz is a lecturer in the School of Mathematics and Statistics. In this interview, he reveals that he enjoys all aspects of his job, talks about some cool things that students have taught him, and discusses his research in Combinatorics.

Growing up in a tiny village in Ireland, Dr Shane Keating's interest in maths was first sparked by games such as chess and cards. That initial spark has led to a career spanning three continents, fascinating research in mathematical oceanography, and a position as a lecturer in maths at UNSW.

Dr Libo Li is a young researcher and lecturer in the School who recently attracted an Early Career Research Grant. In his interview, he reveals his international upbringing, academic role models, and a very interesting hidden talent!

Dr Joanna Wang, whose interest in statistics evolved in first year uni, agrees with Google’s Chief Economist that statistics is “sexy” because data is “EVERYWHERE”.
She has been collaborating on research into helmet safety, and says the mix of teaching and research is “exactly what I wanted”.

Dr Jan Zika is a brand new lecturer in Applied Maths! He tells us what first ignited his interest in oceanography and climate science, reveals the current challenges of his research, divulges his academic role models, and shares some tips for travelling to his childhood stomping ground, Tasmania.


Advanced Mathematics student Daniel Altman is one to watch! He's started to amass quite a collection of prizes for his outstanding academic performance. In his interview, Daniel reveals what he likes about maths, the challenges of studying it, his interests away from uni, and more.

If you could wake up tomorrow and be any mathematician from any point in history, who would you want to be?
This is just one of the questions that Honours (Pure Maths) student Peter Ayre was subjected to in his interview. We get the scoop on his highlights – and challenges – of doing Honours, his plans for after uni, and why maths continues to engage and motivate him.

BCom/BSc (Advanced Mathematics) student, Dorothy Cheung, speaks about her experiences studying maths at UNSW, her Girls Do The Maths Scholarship, and her advice for young girls who are interested in mathematics.

BSc (Mathematics)/BEngineering student Varun Nayyar opens up about his transition from medicine to his current degree, his student exchange in California, his Faculty Research Scholarship, and his master plan for the future.

James Nichols speaks about his experiences as a postgrad research student in the School. We get him to spill on his role models, his PhD journey, what first enticed him to study maths, his interest in music, and his next move.

Sabarina Shafie is in her final stages of a PhD. She reveals the interesting way she originally got into maths, gives us some pointers on travelling to her home country Malaysia, divulges her hobbies, and opens up about some of the challenging & rewarding aspects of postgraduate study...


Dr Byron Jacobs visited the School in early 2015. He opened up about his academic career in South Africa, his research on PDEs and image processing, the work he collaborated on at UNSW, and what kindled his interest in mathematics.

Thanom Shaw was our 2014 Visiting Teaching Fellow. Thanom has been a high school teacher at SCEGGS for nine years, and says that spending 2014 immersed in studying and teaching university level Mathematics at UNSW is a "dream come true" and a "professional development opportunity not so easy to come by".