New Director for the Mathematical Sciences Institute

22 November 2021

ANU has appointed distinguished theoretical astrophysicist Professor Lilia Ferrario as the new Director of the Mathematical Sciences Institute in the College of Science.

With more than 25 years of experience as an academic at MSI, Professor Ferrario is a Senior Fellow of the Higher Education Academy and has held the position of Associate Director - Education at MSI for many years.

She has represented MSI on numerous School, College, University and external committees and thus she brings to the MSI a wealth of experience in the educational space and a unique enthusiasm to improve MSI’s student experience for underrepresented groups.

“MSI’s mission is to offer the best mathematics education program in Australia and equal to the best in the world. It is our priority to provide undergraduate and postgraduate research students with access to top level courses and researchers in pure and applied mathematics, and to deliver outstanding education and support programs which ensure all students reach their full potential” Professor Lilia Ferrario said.

Professor Ferrario is a strong supporter of gender equity and diversity in the areas of mathematical science. She plans to introduce indigenous knowledge into mathematics courses and to support initiatives that will substantially increase the proportion of female mathematicians in our academic and student cohorts.

In line with the ANU2025 Strategic Plan, Professor Ferrario is also eager to showcase the cutting-edge research in pure and applied mathematics that MSI academics are currently undertaking.

“We want the general public to appreciate the crucial role that mathematics plays in forging a modern and technologically advanced society, and how mathematical research can transform our lives, protect the environment, and underpin the scientific and technological advances of the future.”

Professor Ferrario graduated from the University of Bologna and completed her PhD at the ANU Mount Stromlo and Siding Spring Observatories in 1990. After a few years in the UK as a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Leicester, she returned to Australia as a joint Research Fellow at the Research School of Astronomy and Astrophysics and the School of Mathematical Sciences.

She is internationally recognised for her work on compact stars, magnetic accretion and cyclotron shocks on the surface of highly magnetic white dwarfs. She has studied the magnetosphere-accretion stream interaction in compact stars with detailed self-consistent 3-D computational models of the thermal structure of magnetically confined accretion flows. She has investigated the origin of magnetic fields in compact stars and has shown that binary interaction and stellar merging can explain the strongest magnetic fields in the universe.

Professor Ferrario has also made leading contributions in stellar structure and evolution, in the modelling of the atmospheres of magnetic white dwarf stars and she has performed Galactic archaeology studies to hunt for the elusive progenitors of type Ia Supernovae that are routinely used as standard candles to determine the expansion history of the universe.