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US Expert On Diffusion To Join Otago

27 September 2004

US Expert On Diffusion To Join Otago

Will Become the Next Professor of Applied Mathematics

Dr Mark M. Meerschaert, currently Professor of Mathematics and Statistics at the University of Nevada, will become the University of Otago’s next Professor of Applied Mathematics.

An applied mathematician, Dr Meerschaert is credited with developing a sophisticated new mathematical model to help explain how diffusion works. His model has a broad range of practical applications including helping to predict how an oil spill would disperse through water or how pollutants from a landfill would move through soil.

“Professor Mark Meerschaert brings many years of experience successfully applying advanced mathematical and statistical theory to very real physical problems,” Vice-Chancellor Professor David Skegg said in announcing the appointment this week.

“Not only is his research publication record truly impressive – with two books and 30 refereed academic articles in the past five years alone – but he consistently scores very highly in teacher evaluations, both at the undergraduate and graduate levels,” Professor Skegg continued.

Graduating in 1984 from the University of Michigan with a PhD in Mathematics (Probability), Prof Meerschaert applied his mathematical abilities as a senior systems analyst in the private sector before establishing his academic career, first at Albion College, a Michigan liberal arts college, and then at the University of Nevada where he was appointed in 1993. There, he rose quickly through the ranks, joining the Graduate Faculty in Hydrologic Sciences in 1999, and becoming full professor in 2002.

Prof Meerschaert has published extensively on mathematical modelling and is particularly interested in applications of fractional calculus, an extension of the well-known classical calculus that is first taught at school. He currently has $1 million US in National Science Foundation grants for his research.

His appointment was warmly welcomed by Professor Vernon Squire, Assistant Vice-Chancellor, Sciences, and the former head of the Mathematics and Statistics Department at Otago.

“I’m delighted with the appointment,” Professor Squire said. “Mark has an exceptional mathematical mind, but can also take complex mathematical theories and apply them to everyday realities. While Mark’s most current focus is in modelling how pollutants spread through soils – that is, geophysical hydrology – the mathematics that underpin this process occur much more widely in areas as diverse as ground water, financial analysis and health.”

“I am very much looking forward to moving to Dunedin along with my wife Carmen, a medical doctor,” Professor Meerschaert says. “We both fell in love with the place at first sight. The university is first rank, and there is great potential for exciting collaborative research that includes maths and stats as an essential partner.”

Professor Meerschaert is expected to take up his appointment sometime in the next year.


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