Each year AMSI supports and sponsors eminent international researchers through the scientific program in conjunction with SSAI, and ANZIAM.
This annual event gives the research community and the general public an opportunity to hear top academics in the fields of both pure and applied mathematics speak about their research.
If you would like more information about either of the upcoming AMSI Lecturers, please contact lauren@amsi.org.au

2016 AMSI SSAI Lecturer

2017 AMSI ANZIAM Lecturer

Professor Jeffrey Rosenthal

Professor of Statistics, University of Toronto

Tour dates
28/11/2016 – 16/12/2016

Associate Professor Maria Vlasiou

Eindhoven University of Technology

Tour dates
13/02/2017 – 24/02/2017

Jeffrey Rosenthal is a professor in the Department of Statistics at the University of Toronto. Born in Scarborough, Ontario, Canada in 1967, he received his BSc in Mathematics, Physics, and Computer Science from the University of Toronto at the age of 20, his PhD in Mathematics from Harvard University at the age of 24, and tenure in the Department of Statistics at the University of Toronto at the age of 29.

For his research, Rosenthal was awarded the 2006 CRM-SSC Prize, and also the 2007 COPSS Presidents’ Award, the most prestigious honour bestowed by the Committee of Presidents of Statistical Societies. For his teaching, he received a Harvard University Teaching Award in 1991, and an Arts and Science Outstanding Teaching Award at the University of Toronto in 1998. He was elected to Fellowship of the Institute of Mathematical Statistics in 2005, and of the Royal Society of Canada in 2012, and was awarded the SSC Gold Medal in 2013.

Rosenthal’s book for the general public, Struck by Lightning: The Curious World of Probabilities, was published in sixteen editions and ten languages, and was a bestseller in Canada. It led to numerous media and public appearances, and to his work exposing the Ontario lottery retailer scandal. Rosenthal has also published two textbooks about probability theory, and over ninety refereed research papers, many related to the field of Markov chain Monte Carlo randomised computer algorithms and to interdisciplinary applications of statistics. He has dabbled as a computer game programmer, musical performer, and improvisational comedy performer, and is fluent in French. His web site is www.probability.ca.

Despite being born on Friday the thirteenth, Rosenthal has been a very fortunate person.

Tour Program
Type Date Time Host Location
Specialist Monday 28 November 11.30 - 12.30PM Queensland University of Technology GP O-412, level 4 O-block. Gardens Point Campus, Queensland University of Technology
Public Monday 28 November 6-7PM The University of Queensland & Queensland University of Technology The University of Queensland, Room TBC
Specialist Tuesday 29 November 2-3PM Macquarie University 1.200 Lecture Theatre, Australian Hearing Hub Level 1, Macquarie University
Specialist Wednesday 30 November 11.30-12.30PM University of Technology Sydney Maths Grid-Room, Room 430, Level 5, Building 4, University of Technology Sydney
Public Wednesday 30 November 6-7PM The University of New South Wales Colombo Theatre A, Lower Ground, Colombo Building, The University of New South Wales
Specialist Thursday 1 December 2.30-3.30PM University of Wollogong University fo Wollongong, Room TBC
SSA Conference Plenery Talk Thursday 8 December 9.30-10.30AM Statistical Society of Australia Hotel Realm, 18 National Circuit, Canberra, ACT 2600
Public Tuesday 13 December 6-7PM The University of Adelaide/SSA The University of Adelaide, Room TBC
Specialist Thursday 15 Dec 11.30-12.30PM La Trobe University Room PW215, Peribolos West, Bundoora, La Trobe University
Public Friday 15 December TBC Australian Mathematical Sciences Institute TBC
Talk Abstracts

Specialist Lecture – The Mathematics of MCMC

Markov chain Monte Carlo (MCMC) algorithms, such as the Metropolis Algorithm and the Gibbs Sampler, are extremely useful and popular for approximately sampling from complicated probability distributions through repeated randomness. They are frequently applied to such diverse subjects as Bayesian statistics, physical chemistry, medical research, financial modeling, numerical integration, and more. This talk will use simple graphical simulations to explain how these algorithms work, and why they are so useful. It will also describe how mathematical analysis can provide deeper insights into their implementation, optimisation, and convergence times, and can even allow us to “adapt” the algorithms to improve their performance on the fly.

Public Lecture – From Lotteries to Polls to Monte Carlo

This talk will discuss randomness and probability, to answer such questions as: Just how unlikely is it to win a lottery jackpot? If you flip 100 coins, how close will the number of heads be to 50? How many dying patients must be saved to demonstrate that a new medical drug is effective? Why do strange coincidences occur so often? If a poll samples 1,000 people, how accurate are the results? How did statistics help to expose the Ontario Lottery Retailer Scandal? If two babies die in the same family without apparent cause, should the parents be convicted of murder? Why do casinos always make money, even though gamblers sometimes win and sometimes lose? And how is all of this related to Monte Carlo Algorithms, an extremely popular and effective method for scientific computing? No mathematical background is required to attend.

SSA Conference Plenary Talk – Adaptive MCMC For Everyone

Markov chain Monte Carlo (MCMC) algorithms, such as the Metropolis Algorithm and the Gibbs Sampler, are an extremely useful and popular method of approximately sampling from complicated probability distributions. Adaptive MCMC attempts to automatically modify the algorithm while it runs, to improve its performance on the fly. However, such adaptation often destroys the ergodicity properties necessary for the algorithm to be valid. In this talk, we first illustrate MCMC algorithms using simple graphical Java applets. We then discuss adaptive MCMC, and present examples and theorems concerning its ergodicity and efficiency. We close with some recent ideas which make adaptive MCMC more widely applicable in broader contexts.


Maria Vlasiou is an Associate Professor in the Department of Mathematics and Computer Science at the Eindhoven University of Technology (TU/e), a Research Fellow of the European research institute Eurandom, and Scientific Staff member of CWI. Born in Greece in 1980, she received her B.Sc. (2002, Hons.) and Ph.D. (2006) from the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki and TU/e, respectively. In 2006, she moved to the H. Milton Stewart School of Industrial and Systems Engineering, at the Georgia Institute of Technology, where she first worked as a Research Engineer and later on as a Postdoctoral Fellow.

Her research interests center on stochastic processes and stochastic operations research. Her research focuses on the performance of stochastic processing networks with layered architectures and on perturbation analysis for heavy-tailed risk models. Other interests include Lévy processes, large deviations for non-monotone stochastic recursions, and proportional fairness in heavy traffic for bandwidth-sharing networks. She has supervised four PhD theses on these topics that have received  the Willem van Zwet runner-up award and a Stieltjes-prize finalist position.

Dr. Vlasiou has been invited to more than 20 foreign universities for collaboration and seminars. She has been associate editor in two journals and has refereed for about 45 international journals, conferences, and national science foundations. Dr. Vlasiou’s research so far has been funded by grants from more than 10 science foundations, universities, societies, and organisations. She is the co-author of more than 30 refereed papers, the co-recipient of the best paper award in ICORES 2013, the Marcel Neuts student paper award in MAM8, and of the 3rd prize of the 8th conference in Actuarial Science. In her personal life, she is kept busy with Jason (3 yo) and Melina (1 yo), sharing the load with Bert. Any time left is spent on reading avidly, watching handball and water polo games, and playing the piano very badly.

Tour Program
Talk Abstracts

Tour abstract to be confirmed.


Please contact Liam Williamson via liam@amsi.org.au, if you would like further information about the lecture tour.

Past AMSI Lecture Tours