Renaissance of the sciences as student demand increases for courses

The Australian reports today that there has been a significant surge (by 10-20 percent) in student applications for maths, science, and engineering courses in Australia this year, which is being attributed both to the significant reduction in HECS fees for these subjects and to increased social awareness among students as to the importance of these areas.  Hopefully the universities will retain their capability to teach these subjects well to an increased number of students…

Hannan Medal

The Australian Academy of Science has just announced its 2009 awards for academic excellence.  The Hannan medal for research in pure mathematics went to Norman Dancer FAA at U. Sydney.  Congratulations Norman!

Maths trust calls for teaching shakeup

In a brief item for ABC news, Peter Taylor of the Australian Mathematics Trust notes declining enrolments in advanced mathematics in Australian schools and universities, and calls for an increased emphasis on problem-solving skills in maths classes in schools that go beyond the current curriculum.

Coincidentally, in the recent article “Is the sky still falling?” in the Notices of the American Mathematical Society, it was observed that maths enrollments in US colleges have grown modestly in the last ten years in absolute terms, but have declined substantially relative to total enrollments, possibly because in the US, enrollment in maths is tied to a large extent to enrollments in engineering, which has fluctuated quite a bit in recent years.  (The study also recommends developing alternatives to the standard calculus courses as entry points to a maths program.)

[Thanks to Margaret Smith for the first link.]

Venkatesh receives 2008 SASTRA Ramanujan prize

I’m happy to report that my friend (and UWA undergraduate) Akshay Venkatesh, now a professor of mathematics at Stanford University, has won the 2008 SASTRA Ramanujan prize for outstanding contributions to areas of mathematics influenced by the great Indian mathematician, Srinivasa Ramanujan.  The prize, worth US$10,000, is only awarded to those under the age of thirty-two (the age of Ramanujan at his time of death).  Congratulations Akshay!

Update, Jan 14: By coincidence, the Australian mathematics society has just awarded its annual prizes at last month’s joint Australia-NZ colloquium, in particular giving the AustMS medal to Shahar Mendelson and the George Szekeres medal to Hyam Rubinstein.