Distinguished Lectures

The Maxwell Institute runs four series of distinguished annual lectures

Atiyah Lecture

The Atiyah Lecture is an annual lecture to commemorate Sir Michael Atiyah (1929-2019), delivered by a distinguished mathematician who has provided a significant service to the international mathematical community.

The first Atiyah Lecture was given by Professor Jean-Pierre Bourguignon on 11 January 2021: What  is a Spinor? You can watch the lecture online.

The second Atiyah Lecture will be given by Professor Thaleia Zariphopoulou on 13 May 2022 at 14:00 in Bayes Centre at Room G.03.

Professor Thaleia Zariphopoulou is a Greek-American mathematician specializing in mathematical finance. She is the Presidential Chair in Mathematics and the Neuhaus Centennial Professor of Finance at the University of Texas at Austin. Zariphopoulou earned a B.S. in electrical engineering from the National Technical University of Athens in 1984. She then went to Brown University for graduate studies in applied mathematics and earned her master’s degree in 1985 and her Ph.D. degree in 1989 under the supervision of Wendell Fleming. She was an assistant professor at Worcester Polytechnic Institute and an associate professor at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, before she moved to the University of Texas at Austin in 1999. Thaleia was the first holder of the statutory Oxford-Man Chair in Quantitative Finance, Mathematical Institute, University of Oxford from 2009-2012.  She became a fellow of the Society for Industrial and Applied Mathematics in 2012. Zariphopoulou was an invited speaker at the 2014 International Congress of Mathematicians in Seoul.

Human-machine interaction models and stochastic optimization

This talk will offer an introduction to human-machine interaction (HMI) models in asset allocation (e.g. robo-advising) and a discussion on the related modeling and mathematical challenges. Modeling difficulties stem from the limited ability to quantify the human’s risk preferences and describe their evolution, but also from the fact that the stochastic environment, in which the machine optimizes, adapts to real time incoming information that is exogeneous to the human. Furthermore, the human’s risk preferences/goals and the machine’s actions may evolve at different scales. This dynamic interaction creates an adaptive cooperative game with both asymmetric and incomplete information exchange between the two parties. As a result, challenging questions arise on, among others, how frequently the human and the machine should communicate, how much information can the machine accurately detect, infer and predict, how should the human’s (over)reaction to exogeneous events and realized performance be processed and tamed by the machine, and how the performance of the machine could be compared with the one of a human advisor. Such HMI models give rise to new, non-standard optimization problems that combine adaptive stochastic control, time-inconsistency, stochastic differential games, optimal stopping, multi-scale analysis, and learning.

Finney Lecture

The Finney Lecture is an annual lecture to commemorate Professor David Finney (1917-2018). The lecture aims to highlight exceptional research in the field of applied statistics.

The 5th David Finney Lecture was given online by Professor Kerrie Mengersen on 18 March 2021.

Professor Kerrie Mengersen is a Distinguished Professor in Statistics at the Queensland University of Technology in Brisbane, Australia. She is the Deputy Director of the Australian Research Council Centre of Excellence in Mathematical Frontiers and the Director of the QUT Centre for Data Science. Kerrie is also an elected Fellow of the Australian Academy of Science and the Australian Academy of Social Sciences, and a member of the Statistical Society of Australia and the IMS, ASA, RSS, ISBA and ISI. Her research interests are in mathematical statistics and its application to substantive challenges in health, environment and industry, with particular focus on Bayesian methods.

`Crikey – it’s  a Bayesian!’

Bayesian statistics is now an established tool of trade for an applied statistician or data scientist. However, there are many open challenges in Bayesian modelling and analysis, which are often inspired by challenging real-world problems. In this presentation, Kerrie Mengersen will discuss a suite of environmental and biological problems that have required us to build better Bayesian tools to address increasingly sophisticated insights. The applied challenges range from the Antarctic to the Amazon, and from water to wellness. The tools include spatio-temporal models, nonparametrics, latent variable constructs and Bayesian network analyses. The work is based on research with a range of collaborators who will be acknowledged in the presentation.

Watch the lecture online.

Fitch Lecture

The Fitch Lecture is an annual lecture to commemorate Davey Fitch  (1978-2019). It aims to highlight the impact of Mathematical Sciences. Davey Fitch was the first Business Development Officer for the School of Mathematics. In this role he kickstarted many of the industry and knowledge exchange activities of the School and his impact is still felt in the School today.

The first Fitch lecture was given by Professor  John Aston on 5th May 2021.

The second Fitch lecture will be given by Professor Arnaud Doucet on 4th November 2022, 2-3pm.

Arnaud Doucet is a Professor of Statistics at the University of Oxford. An Institute of Mathematical Statistics (IMS) Medallion lecturer in 2016, he was elected as an IMS Fellow in 2017. He then went on to be awarded the Guy Silver Medal from the Royal Statistical Society in 2020. He is currently also a Senior Research Scientist at Google DeepMind.

An Unlikely Journey

I will discuss how mathematical sciences, industry (and many random events) have shaped my academic career over the past three decades. Starting from the French countryside and a PhD in Electronic Engineering on “Predictive monitoring of neutron sensors”, this long and highly unlikely journey will take us to countries on four continents. I will illustrate how industry problems have been a constant source of inspiration for my research. Very early on, I developed a long-standing interest in stochastic filtering while working in a nuclear research centre. This subsequently motivated me not only to work in many applied domains such as robotics, computer vision and epidemiology but also led me to far away destinations. The journey is not yet over.
After having moved from engineering to statistics, my association with DeepMind has reshaped my research agenda and I will discuss some of my recent machine learning work on generative modelling and uncertainty quantification.

Whittaker Lecture

The Whittaker Lecture is an  annual  lecture to commemorate Sir Edmund Whittaker (1873-1956), delivered  by a distinguished mathematician.

The first Whittaker lecture was given by Professor Yuri Tschinkel on 19 November 2020: Rational points, rational curves, and rational varieties. You can watch the lecture online.

The second Whittaker Lecture will be given by Professor Claire Voisin on 27-29 April 2022, and it will consist of three parts with two supporting lectures given by Evgeny Shinder and Egor Yasinsky.

Professor Claire Voisin is famous for her work in algebraic geometry. She won the European Mathematical Society Prize in 1992, the Sophie Germain Prize in 2003, the Ruth Lyttle Satter Prize in 2007, and the Clay Research Award in 2008. Voisin was an invited speaker at the 1994 International Congress of Mathematicians in Zurich, and a plenary speaker at the 2010 International Congress of Mathematicians in Hyderabad. In 2009 she became a member of the German Academy of Sciences Leopoldina. In 2016, she received the Gold medal of the French National Centre for Scientific Research. In 2017, she received the Shaw Prize in Mathematical Sciences. Claire Voisin was elected Fellow of the Royal Society in 2021.

Hyper-Kahler manifolds

Hyper-Kahler manifolds form a special class of compact Kahler manifolds with trivial canonical bundle. They are higher-dimensional generalizations of K3 surfaces, and a number of deformation classes of hyper-Kahler manifolds can be constructed starting from either a K3 or abelian surface. In the first lecture, I will introduce them and describe some of their general properties, from the viewpoints of Riemannian geometry, topology, and algebraic geometry. The second lecture will present further classical results that will be needed in the last lecture, devoted to the proof of a simple topological characterization of hyper-Kahler manifolds of Hilb^2(K3) deformation type (joint work with Debarre, Huybrechts, and Macri).

Evgeny Shinder will talk about Jacobians and derived equivalence of elliptic K3 surfaces. In his talk, Evgeny will explain a question of Hassett and Tschinkel on whether every Fourier-Mukai partner of an elliptic K3 surface is isomorphic to one of its Jacobians. This question has both geometric and arithmetic significance, in particular it’s relevant for the D-equivalence => L-equivalence conjecture and behaviour of rational points under derived equivalence. The answer to the Hassett-Tschinkel question is positive in Picard rank two under a coprimality assumption, and is negative in general. The proofs rely on Mukai’s techniques of moduli spaces, Derived Torelli Theorem, Hodge lattices and counting formula for Fourier-Mukai partners. This is joint work with Reinder Meinsma.

Egor Yasinsky will talk about Birational automorphisms of algebraic surfaces over non-closed fields. Birational automorphisms of the projective plane (or, equivalently, automorphisms of the field of rational functions in two variables of order 2) were studied already by the Italian school of algebraic geometry – Bertini, Castelnuovo, and Enriques. However, their (more or less) complete understanding became possible only due to modern tools of birational geometry, e.g. the minimal model program, the Sarkisov program, etc. Birational automorphisms of the complex projective plane are pretty well understood today, but for planes over algebraically non-closed fields the situation is much more complicated. In the first part of the talk, Egor will review what is known about birational involutions of projective planes over various fields. In the second part, he will talk about the joint work with I. Cheltsov, F. Mangolte and S. Zimmerman, in which they classified birational involutions of the real projective plane.