QUT scientist joins nation’s most distinguished

QUT Distinguished Professor Kerrie Mengersen in Peru, investigating jaguars and their habitats: Photo: Vanessa Hunter

QUT mathematical and statistical scientist Distinguished Professor Kerrie Mengersen has been named a Fellow of the Australian Academy of Science, joining the ranks of the nation’s most distinguished scientists.

  • The appointment acknowledges Professor Mengersen’s internationally recognised and significant contributions in the field of Bayesian statistics theory, methodology and computation and its application to substantive problems.
  • She is among 21 scientists, and one of two from Queensland, to be elected in 2018 to the Academy.
  • The new Fellows join a prestigious group which includes six Nobel Prize winners and luminaries including Sir Mark Oliphant, Sir Douglas Mawson and Sir David Attenborough.

“Being elected to the Academy is a real honour for me,” Professor Mengersen said. “It is also an honour for my colleagues and co-authors, and for statistics and the people who work in the profession.”

Professor Mengersen, from QUT’s Science and Engineering Faculty, focuses on using and developing new statistical and computational methods to help solve complex problems in diverse fields including the environment, genetics, health and medicine, and industry.

Her methodology has been used in pioneering projects to map where people with cancer live, firstly in regional Queensland and now across Australia, allowing health agencies, policy makers and the community the opportunity to understand cancer locations and where resourcing is needed.

She has also worked on projects to protect critically endangered cheetahs in southern Africa and orang-utans in Indonesia, to identify a jaguar corridor to the Peruvian jungle so the animals can roam safely and to monitor the health of The Great Barrier Reef, by tapping into local knowledge and building statistical and virtual reality models to guide conservation efforts.

“One of the things I love about my work is showing how mathematics and statistics underpin every area of our lives,” she said.

“I was interested in maths and science at school. I grew up on a farm and I could see that science was relevant to many areas of my life – agriculture, the environment, health and business.

“I was interested in a range of subjects at school, but at university I think that statistics found me, rather than me finding statistics.

“My teachers and lecturers were very influential in cultivating my interest in learning in general and in mathematics and statistics in particular. This honour also recognises all our great maths teachers across Australia.

“Data literacy is such an important skill for everyone. Statistics allows us to know what the data is really telling us and how we can use data to make better decisions.”

In 2015, Professor Mengersen was awarded an Australian Research Council (ARC) Australian Laureate Fellowship and she is a Deputy Director and Chief Investigator of the ARC Centre of Excellence for Mathematical and Statistical Frontiers, which has one of its largest nodes at QUT.

She is the first woman to receive the prestigious Pitman Medal from the Statistical Society of Australia, which recognises outstanding achievement in the statistics discipline.

Professor Mengersen is among 21 scientists, and one of two from Queensland, to be elected in 2018 to the Australian Academy of Science.

Academy President Professor Andrew Holmes congratulated Professor Mengersen and the new Fellows for making significant and lasting impacts in their various scientific disciplines.

“These scientists were elected by their Academy peers, following a rigorous evaluation process,” he said.

“Professor Mengersen’s citation acknowledges that she has made internationally recognised contributions to the field of Bayesian statistics.

“She has consistently maintained a dual focus on statistical methodology and its application, with methodological contributions at the frontier of Bayesian theory, methodology and computation, and applied contributions to substantive problems in health, environment and industry.

“She is also well known for her leadership ability and passion for developing young researchers in statistics and the applied sciences.”

The new Fellows will be formally admitted at a ceremony at the Science at the Shine Dome 2018 symposium in Canberra and will present their work at the symposium tomorrow (May 23 2018).

Source: QUT

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