New Zealand Institute of Mathematics & its Applications (NZIMA)



Marston Conder is a Professor of Mathematics at the University of Auckland, and a Co-Director (with Vaughan Jones) of the NZ Institute of Mathematics & its Applications (NZIMA).

His research interests are in algebra, geometry and combinatorics, and especially the application of combinatorial and computational group theory to the analysis and construction of discrete objects with maximum symmetry. He has published about 90 papers in international journals and refereed conference proceedings.

After a Masters degree at the University of Waikato, Professor Conder obtained a DPhil degree from the University of Oxford, where he won the Senior Mathematical Prize and Johnson Prize in 1980.

He held a postdoctoral fellowship at the University of Otago in 1981, followed by a Royal Society (UK) Research Fellowship at the University of Tuebingen (Germany) in 1982, and a Fellowship from the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation in 1987. He has held other visiting positions at Fribourg (Switzerland), Madrid, Oxford, Singapore, St Andrews (UK), Sydney and Waterloo (Canada).

He was President of the NZ Mathematical Society from 1993 to 1995, co-founder and initial convenor of the NZ Mathematical and Information Sciences Council (now a standing committee of the RSNZ) in 1994, and is a co-founding Director of the NZ Mathematics Research Institute. He participated as a lead expert in the MoRST Review of New Zealand's Scientific Knowledge Base in 1996, and was a member of the TEAC Research Working Group (2000-2001). At the University of Auckland he was Head of the Department of Mathematics from 1996 to 1998, and served a term as Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Research) from 1999 to 2001.

He is a member of the Editorial Board of the NZ Journal of Mathematics and served as a member of the Marsden Fund Council (and convenor of its Mathematical & Information Sciences panel) from 2001 to 2005. In 2002 he chaired a Working Group for the NZ Ministry of Education, to design a Performance Based Research Fund (PBRF) for tertiary education institutions in NZ. He is currently President-Elect of the Academy of the Royal Society of New Zealand (and will take up the President's position at the end of 2006).

He won a Prince & Princess of Wales Science Award in 1989, the NZ Mathematical Society's Research Award for 1993, a Claude McCarthy Fellowship in 1995, a Hood Fellowship for 2005, and 3-year Marsden Fund grants in 1995, 1998, 2001 and 2004. He was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society of NZ in 1998, and awarded a DSc by the University of Oxford in 1999.


Vaughan Jones is a Professor of Mathematics at the University of California at Berkeley and Distinguished Alumni Professor of the University of Auckland, and a Co-Director (with Marston Conder) of the NZ Institute of Mathematics & its Applications (NZIMA).

Vaughan Jones was born and educated in New Zealand, at St Peter's School (Cambridge), Auckland Grammar School, and the University of Auckland, where he graduated MSc with First Class Honours in 1973.

He was awarded a Swiss Government Scholarship and an FWW Rhodes Memorial Scholarship, which enabled him to study for his doctorate at the University of Geneva. In 1979 he was awarded the degree of Docteures Sciences (Mathematique) and the following year the Vacheron Constantin Prize for his doctoral thesis.

He spent his first postdoctoral year as ER Hedrick Assistant Professor of Mathematics at the University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA), and from 1981 worked at the University of Pennsylvania as Assistant and then Associate Professor, before being appointed as Professor of Mathematics at the University of California at Berkeley in 1985.

During the 1980s his research focussed on von Neumann algebras, and in the course of this work he discovered a new polynomial invariant for knots which led to surprising connections between apparently quite different areas of mathematics.

Vaughan Jones was awarded a Fields Medal at the 1990 International Congress in Kyoto (Japan) for his remarkable and beautiful mathematical achievements. The Fields Medal is awarded every four years, and is regarded as the euqivalent of a Nobel Prize. (Some say that Nobel's wife had an affair with a mathematician and that this is the reason why there is no Nobel Prize for Mathematics.) Vaughan Jones is the only New Zealander ever to have won this prestigious award, and it is believed also that he is the only winner from the Southern Hemisphere.

Since then he has gone on to receive numerous awards and honours, for example:

  • awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship 1986
  • elected a Fellow of the Royal Society (of London) 1990
  • awarded the New Zealand Government Science Medal 1991
  • awarded an honorary DSc from the University of Auckland 1992
  • appointed as a Distinguished Alumni Professor at the University of Auckland 1992
  • awarded an honorary DSc from the University of Wales 1993
  • elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences 1993
  • elected to the US National Academy of Sciences 1999
  • awarded the Onsager medal of Trondheim University (Norway) 2000
  • elected as a foreign member to the Norwegian Royal Society of Letters and Sciences 2001
  • made a Distinguished Companion of the Order of New Zealand 2002.

    He has published in research in leading international scientific journals, and has been invited to lecture at numerous international conferences, including the following:

  • International Association of Mathematical Physicists (Swansea) 1988
  • International Congress of Mathematicians (Kyoto) 1990
  • International Association of Mathematical Physicists (Brisbane) 1997.

    He has also served as editor or associate editor of several international journals, including the Transactions of the American Mathematical Society, the Pacific Journal of Mathematics, the New Zealand Journal of Mathematics, Reviews in Mathematical Physics, and the Journal of Mathematical Chemistry.

    In addition, he has been a member of the Scientific Advisory Boards of several leading mathematical institutes around the world, including < li> the Fields Institute for Mathematics (Canada)

  • the Erwin Schrodinger Institute for Mathematical Physics (Vienna, Austria)
  • the Mathematical Sciences Research Institute (Berkeley, USA)
  • the Center for Communications Research (USA)
  • the Institut Henri Poincare (Paris, France).

    Although based at the University of California, since 1992 he has returned to New Zealand at least once each year (in his role as Distinguished Alumni Professor at the University of Auckland) and he continues to engage with and stimulate the mathematical sciences community in NZ.

    He is principal founder and (now) Director of the NZ Mathematics Research Institute, which is a virtual institute (without premises) established in the 1990s to promote and foster mathematical research of the highest quality in NZ. Since 1994 the NZMRI has run summer research workshops in various parts of NZ on mathematical themes of current importance, at which students and senior researchers can interact and learn from each other and from overeseas experts who are invited to give courses of lectures.

    Vaughan Jones has been instrumental in attracting some of the world's best mathematicians to NZ, and the success of these workshops is largely attributable to his vision and energy in setting up the NZMRI. His own style of working is informal, encouraging the free and open interchange of ideas, and this has rubbed off on many others. His efforts have made it possible for graduate students to gain first-hand knowledge of developments at the leading edge of their discipline, here in NZ.

    This activity is now set to expand and be enhanced through the newly formed NZ Institute of Mathematics and its Applications, one of the five Centres of Research Excellence selected in 2002 for special funding from the Government. Vaughan Jones will be co-Director of this Institute and head its International Scientific Advisory Board, and continue to make invaluable contributions to scientific research and postgraduate education in his home country.

    For further details, see also here and here.

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    Last updated on 27 October 2006 by