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Nalini Joshi


Maths and society

Nalini Joshi is all about driving change in maths and striving for equality

Professor Nalini Joshi, AO, is one of Australia’s leading mathematicians. She is Chair of Applied Mathematics at the University of Sydney, working on cutting-edge research in fields as varied as the distribution of large prime numbers, bus arrival times and how diseases spread. Her message to students: “Always look beyond the numbers.”

“We want students to be able to answer questions they have not come across yet,” says Nalini. “It’s more about enabling students to ask the questions that will help them invent the maths tools of the future.

“Mathematics is a creative art, not just number crunching. You can use it to become a discoverer so don’t let go of mathematics too early because it’s essential for what’s coming in your future.”

Nalini is also a passionate campaigner for equality in Australia’s STEM society. She has suffered sexism and racism here, notably arriving at meetings and conferences where – because she is female and Asian (she was born in Myanmar but has Indian heritage) – organisers assumed she was part of the kitchen crew.

She is, in fact, the first ever female maths professor at the University of Sydney and only the third female mathematician elected to the Australian Academy of Science. “The science community, like any community, needs diversity, not just in entry-level lecturer positions but in senior leadership roles,” she says. – Matthew Brace

Nalini’s study and career pathway

  • Bachelor Of Science (Honours), University of Sydney
  • Phd Computational And Applied Mathematics, Princeton University (US)
  • Fellow, The Australian Academy of Science
  • Australian Research Council Georgina Sweet Australian Laureate Fellowship
  • Chair, Applied Mathematics at the University of Sydney

This article originally appears in Careers with STEM: Maths & Data 2021.


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