14 December 2011

A University of Queensland mathematician has been awarded the Combinatorial Mathematics Society of Australasia (CMSA) Medal, recognising her leadership and valuable contributions in combinatorics research.

Combinatorics, an expanding area of mathematics that involves the study of finite structures, has many applications in diverse areas, including computer science, optimisation, networks, cryptography and experimental design, to name a few.

Associate Professor Elizabeth Billington from UQ's School of Mathematics and Physics is the second mathematician from UQ to win this medal since its inception in 1999 when it was awarded to UQ’s Professor Anne Penfold Street (now retired).

Associate Professor Billington has been researching in the area of combinatorics for over 35 of the 40 years she has been employed at UQ.

"I am both honoured and amazed to receive the CMSA Medal,” said Associate Professor Billington.

“I'd like to pay tribute to Anne Street, the inaugural CMSA Medal recipient, who was my PhD supervisor in the 1970s, and who encouraged my switch to this area of mathematics," she said.

The CMSA Medal is awarded at most once every three years, making Associate Professor Billington the fourth recipient of this rare award.

Associate Professor Billington, whose research involves combinatorial designs and graph decompositions, has published over 100 articles in international journals including Combinatorica and the Journal of Combinatorial Designs.

For the past 10 years, she has also been the Editor-in-Chief of the Australasian Journal of Combinatorics, and has either served or is still serving on the editorial boards of several mathematics journals.

Two of Associate Professor Billington’s former PhD students -- Associate Professor Diane Donovan and Professor Peter Adams -- are now successful academics working at the same school in UQ.

Also recognised for her achievement is Mathematics PhD student Sarada Herke, who won the CMSA prize of $500 for the best student talk at the same conference.

Among other criteria, Ms Herke was selected from a pool of 22 contestants for “the originality of the substance of (her) lecture” and for her “rapport with the audience”, making her the fifth UQ student to have won this highly-coveted prize over the years.

Both the awards were announced at the 35th Australasian Conference on Combinatorial Mathematics and Combinatorial Computing, held last week at Monash University in Melbourne.

Media: SMP Communications and Marketing Officer Aarti Kapoor (07 3346 9935, a.kapoor@uq.edu.au)