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Royal Society of NSW News & Events

Hunter Branch Meeting 2020-1

Professor Ryan Loxton Mathematics in Industry: Optimisation in Action —
Unlocking Value in the Mining, Energy, and Agriculture Industries

Professor Ryan Loxton
Curtin University of Technology

A joint public lecture held as part of the Mathematics in Industry Study Group and supported by the Hunter Branch of the Royal Society of NSW, the University of Newcastle,the Australian and New Zealand Industrial and Applied Mathematics Division of the Australian Mathematical Society, and the NSW Chief Scientist and Engineer Conference Sponsorship Program.

Date: Friday, 31 January 2020, 5pm for 5.30–6.30pm
Venue: The University House, University of Newcastle (City Campus), 300 King Street, Newcastle, NSW
Entry: Free
Registration: through Eventbrite

Optimisation is a branch of applied mathematics that focuses on using mathematical techniques to optimise complex systems. Real-world optimisation problems are typically enormous in scale, with hundreds of thousands of inter-related variables and constraints, multiple conflicting objectives, and numerous candidate solutions that can easily exceed the total number of atoms in the solar system, overwhelming even the fastest supercomputers. Mathematical optimisation has numerous applications in business and industry, but there is a big mismatch between the optimisation problems studied in academia (which tend to be highly structured problems) and those encountered in practice (which are non-standard, highly unstructured problems). This lecture gives a non-technical overview of the presenter’s recent experiences in building optimisation models and practical algorithms in the oil and gas, mining, and agriculture sectors. Some of this practical work has led to academic journal articles, showing that the gap between industry and academia can be overcome.

Ryan Loxton is a professor and the discipline leader for mathematics and statistics in the School of Electrical Engineering, Computing, and Mathematical Sciences at Curtin University. Ryan’s research interests lie in the areas of optimisation, optimal control, and data science. His work has been funded by the Australian Research Council (ARC), the Department of Industry, Innovation, and Science, and various industry partners, from small start-ups to large corporates. In particular, Ryan’s ARC grants include two prestigious, highly competitive fellowships—an Australian Postdoctoral Fellowship during 2011–14 and a current ARC Future Fellowship that runs until the end of 2021. His work focuses on using advanced mathematics to optimise complex processes in a wide range of applications such as mining, oil and gas, agriculture, and industrial process control. Ryan’s algorithms underpin the Quantum software platform developed by Aurora Global for tracking, executing, and optimising shutdown maintenance operations at mine sites. Ryan is a passionate advocate for industry engagement and has worked extensively with industry where he has led demand-driven research projects with many companies, both big and small, including Woodside Energy, Vekta Automation, Fleetcare, and Global Grain Handling Solutions. Ryan was the recipient of the 2018 JH Michell Medal from the Australian and New Zealand Industrial and Applied Mathematics Division (ANZIAM) as the outstanding researcher of the year, and the 2014 West Australian Young Scientist of the year. Ryan currently leads the optimisation theme in the new Australian Research Council’s Industrial Training Centre on Transforming Maintenance through Data Science, which is funded by a $3.9 million grant from the Australian Research Council plus matched funding from industry partners Alcoa, BHP Billiton, and Roy Hill.

Royal Society events

The Royal Society of NSW organizes a number of events in Sydney throughout the year.  These include Ordinary General Meetings (OGMs) held on the first Wednesday of the month (there is no meeting in January).  Society business is conducted, new Fellows and Members are inducted, and reports from Council are given to the membership.  This is followed by a talk and optional dinner.  Drinks are served before the meeting.  There is a small charge to attend the meeting and talk, and to cover refreshments.  The dinner is a separate charge, and must be booked in advance.  All OGMs are open to members of the public.

The first OGM in February has speakers drawn from the Royal Society Scholarship winners, and the December OGM hears from the winner of the Jak Kelly award, before an informal Christmas party.  The April or May event is our black-tie Annual Dinner and Distinguished Fellow lecture.

Other events are held in collaboration with other groups, including:

  • The Four Societies lecture (with the Australian Institute of Energy, the Nuclear Panel of Engineers Australia [Sydney Division] and the Australian Nuclear Association)
  • The Forum (with the Australian Academy of Technology and Engineering, the Australian Academy of Science, the Australian Academy of the Humanities and the Academy of the Social Sciences in Australia)
  • The Dirac lecture (with UNSW Australia and the Australian Institute of Physics)
  • The Liversidge Medal lecture (with the Royal Australian Chemical Institute)
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