Dr Melissa Tacy

The University of Auckland


Dr Timothy Candy

The University of Otago

We talk to Dr Melissa Tacy and Dr Timothy Candy about the similarities between their work and whac-a-mole, and the value of learning different mathematical topics

1. What drives your interest in this field?

Melissa: It’s hard to put my finger on a specific thing that drives my interest. I find the challenge of the problems appealing. Analysis (at least the kind of analysis that I do) sometimes feels like a game of whac-a-mole. You just get one term under control and another pops up! It’s incredibly satisfying when you finally get everything under control.

Tim: The field of differential equations is vast, and to make progress on problems often requires a combination of tools from different areas of mathematics. I really enjoy this aspect of the field, as being exposed to new ideas and mathematical tools keeps things interesting. There is always something new to learn!

2. What is the best piece of advice you have received?

Melissa: As well as writing down successful arguments, always keep a track of the failed attempts you have made against any particular problem. The rhythm of an academic career often means problems need to be placed on hiatus for long periods of time, long enough for you to forget the previously discovered dead ends.

Tim: During my PhD, a professor in my department said that I should make the most of my time as a student, as the time available for mathematics only gets smaller as you continue in your academic career. I have found this to be all too true, and so I am very glad that I was strongly encouraged to spend time learning mathematics tangential to my own research topic during my PhD. Sometimes the missing piece of the puzzle that you are looking for can be found in surprising places!

3. Deepening field knowledge and providing a networking platform, why are opportunities such as AMSI Summer School so valuable? What do you hope attendees take from your lectures?

Melissa: Looking back to my own days as a student and attending AMSI Summer School I found the opportunity to take courses outside the expertise of my `home’ faculty to be really valuable.

Tim: I think it is important for students to be exposed to a broad variety of mathematical tools and ideas, and summer schools are a great way to learn about topics that you may not have seen before. As a student, I found attending a summer school an extremely valuable getting a different perspective on mathematics, and seeing what types of problems people find interesting outside of my own institution.

4. If you could be anywhere right now where would you be?

Melissa: Right now I am writing this from locked-down Auckland so there is a particularly wide range of other places that I’d choose to be. Preferably somewhere with a good beach!

Tim: It seems like a long time ago now, but while I was living in Europe, we often went to Greece during the summer. I have great memories of spending time with friends exploring the Greek islands, and I would love to get back there sometime soon.

Dr Melissa Tacy and Dr Timothy Candy will be presenting Fourier Analysis and Distribution Theory at the 2022 Summer School hosted by University of Technology Sydney in January.

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