CSIRO: Mathematical firepower (and cash) key to solving computing problems

New CSIRO maths chief Dr Louise Ryan wants more money for maths-based research.

Dr Louise Ryan, Chief of CSIRO Mathematical and Information Sciences.

Dr Louise Ryan, Chief of CSIRO Mathematical and Information Sciences.

Harvard Professor Dr Louise Ryan, newly appointed Chief of Mathematical and Information Sciences at the CSIRO, will use her new role to champion increased funding for the mathematical sciences in Australia, which she says are essential for the development of computer-based research across the board.

"In recent years, funding has been cut to support the quantitative sciences. And I think it's important to have a voice and say 'hey, this is important'," she said. "This is critical, it's fundamental, it underlies every other field of science and you can't cut corners by cutting funding for mathematical research and training."

A former Chair of Biostatistics at the prestigious Harvard University in Boston, Dr. Ryan will now oversee mathematical and statistical scientists at the CSIRO working on applications ranging from agriculture, light metal production, and environmental modelling to genetics, supercomputing, financial risk and transport logistics.

Her division provides mathematical and statistical modelling to support all kinds of important national projects, including the ambitious "Square Kilometre Array", a massive radio telescope that aims to discover more about the origins of the universe, widely believed to have been brought about by the "Big Bang". According to Dr. Ryan, this is a project "which involves incredible amounts of data-crunching and information synthesis and processing".

Other parts of her division focus on mathematical techniques in the area of computational fluid dynamics, a branch of science involving the assessment of water-related risks that works by using computers to simulate what would happen if, for example, a dam were to break or an unusually large wave were to strike one of the country's off-shore oil rigs.

"So you need lots of very sophisticated mathematical, quantitative techniques to characterise these situations and then you need the very sophisticated computing platforms to be able to run these simulations and see what happens under these varying scenarios.

"We also have other people who are looking at complex genomics data trying to understand which parts of the millions of locations on the human genome might be the ones that make people susceptible to getting, say, colon cancer or certain kinds of disease."

Dr. Ryan says her division provides the mathematical firepower required to solve all of these problems: "That's what my whole division is about, and my job is to provide the scientific leadership for the division as a whole. Also, I see my job as really trying to elevate knowledge about and appreciation of the importance for the mathematical and statistical sciences in Australia.

“If you don't have those really strong underpinnings in the mathematical, statistical and quantitative sciences, you can't get to the applied answers that you need."

According to Dr. Ryan, dedicating more money to the development of advanced computing technology is one of the key ways Australia can try to keep up with the demands of modern science.

"Science is often just inundated with massive amounts of information. So in order to be able to synthesize that information -- to pull it all together and start to see the patterns and figure out what it's really saying, you need very advanced computational techniques.

“The ability to transmit and gather information is just changing at an exponential rate. And so our statistical and mathematical fields have to evolve to be able to handle that data and that's where that very advanced computing comes in."

Ryan believes the challenge for Australia is to maintain a cutting-edge professional environment so as to encourage young, talented Australian scientists to stay and work here rather than seek out greener pastures overseas. No stranger to the so-called "brain-drain" herself, having spent 29 years in the United States, Ryan says the continued development of these sophisticated computing technologies is essential if Australia wants to keep pace with the rest of the developed world.

"If Australia doesn't have top world-class level statisticians, mathematicians and computer scientists we're going to be left behind in terms of the scientific arena; it's absolutely essential for us to be a world-class scientific nation."

Based in North Ryde, Sydney, Dr Ryan took up her new role with the CSIRO a few weeks ago. She will remain on the Harvard faculty as an Adjunct Professor of Biostatistics.

Join the newsletter!


Sign up to gain exclusive access to email subscriptions, event invitations, competitions, giveaways, and much more.

Membership is free, and your security and privacy remain protected. View our privacy policy before signing up.

Error: Please check your email address.


Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Emma McKinnon

Show Comments

Cool Tech

Toys for Boys

Family Friendly

Stocking Stuffer

SmartLens - Clip on Phone Camera Lens Set of 3

Learn more >

Christmas Gift Guide

Click for more ›

Brand Post

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles


PCW Evaluation Team

Aysha Strobbe

Microsoft Office 365/HP Spectre x360

Microsoft Office continues to make a student’s life that little bit easier by offering reliable, easy to use, time-saving functionality, while continuing to develop new features that further enhance what is already a formidable collection of applications

Michael Hargreaves

Microsoft Office 365/Dell XPS 15 2-in-1

I’d recommend a Dell XPS 15 2-in-1 and the new Windows 10 to anyone who needs to get serious work done (before you kick back on your couch with your favourite Netflix show.)

Maryellen Rose George

Brother PT-P750W

It’s useful for office tasks as well as pragmatic labelling of equipment and storage – just don’t get too excited and label everything in sight!

Cathy Giles

Brother MFC-L8900CDW

The Brother MFC-L8900CDW is an absolute stand out. I struggle to fault it.

Luke Hill


I need power and lots of it. As a Front End Web developer anything less just won’t cut it which is why the MSI GT75 is an outstanding laptop for me. It’s a sleek and futuristic looking, high quality, beast that has a touch of sci-fi flare about it.

Emily Tyson

MSI GE63 Raider

If you’re looking to invest in your next work horse laptop for work or home use, you can’t go wrong with the MSI GE63.

Featured Content

Product Launch Showcase

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?