Research in the Department of Mathematical and Physical Sciences

The Department of Mathematical and Physical Sciences is recognised nationally and internationally for its research in applied mathematics, pure mathematics, statistics and physics.

The Australian Research Council’s Excellence in Research for Australia ranks our mathematical sciences as ‘above world standard’, and physical sciences research as ‘well above world standard.’

Our researchers collaborate with scientists in health, psychology, engineering and computing to form multi-disciplinary teams that improve human health and wellbeing and advance the technologies of the future.

Current and former academics have been awarded Australian Research Council Discovery Project funding, Early Career Fellowships, Future Fellowships, a Discovery Outstanding Research Award Fellowship and National Health and Medical Research Council funding.

Physical sciences researchers have also been awarded two consecutive Australian Research Council Centres of Excellence, with La Trobe serving as a node institution. Currently, our researchers are core academic partners of the Australian Research Council’s SmartCrete Cooperative Research Centre.

Our staff also have a strong record supervising Higher Degree by Research students.

Our research supports La Trobe’s five research themes: Sustainable food and agriculture; Resilient environments and communities; Healthy people, families and communities; Understanding and preventing disease; and Social change and equity.

Research areas

Our researchers specialise in fundamental and applied research to create innovative and practical solutions.

Our research is grouped into five key areas:

Our researchers develop new statistical and data science methodologies that contribute to improved modelling and inference of data in areas from the health and medical sciences, to economics and engineering. We have received competitive grant funding to support research that improves statistical methods, or to work collaboratively with other disciplines in health, psychology and education.

Ranging from epidemiology and infectious diseases to integrable systems, the Department’s interests in applied mathematics have immediate applications to the world around us – while also making fundamental contributions. International collaboration in this area is particularly strong. Our Department partners with Kyushu University (Japan) and host the Australia branch of Kyushu’s Institute of Mathematics for Industry.

Number theory, geometry, algebra, logic, and graph theory are the main foci of pure mathematics in the Department. While our researchers are primarily interested in how mathematics itself works, we also collaborate across disciplines, particularly in computer science. Major projects on number theory and geometry have received funding from the Australian Research Council.

Quantum computing, materials science, and nanotechnology are core areas of research strength in the Department. Our researchers have strong collaborative ties to industry including Quantum Brilliance, to research infrastructure providers such as the Australian National Fabrication Facility, and to government organisations including the Defence Science and Technology Group. These collaborations also support a range of industry PhDs.

Areas of strength include synchrotron science, coherent X-ray science and biophotonics. Our researchers have received major grant funding and have been awarded several high-profile national prizes for success in research translation and commercialisation. Research is supported through collaborative projects with the Australian Synchrotron and La Trobe’s joint PhD program with the more than A$2 billion European X-ray Free Electron Laser facility based in Hamburg, Germany.

Research centre

We are also home to the Centre for Materials and Surface Science.

The Centre for Materials and Surface Science is an interdisciplinary research centre that brings together experts across physics, chemistry, materials science and engineering from La Trobe, and local and international partners. It offers Australia’s most comprehensive suite of surface science and surface analysis equipment and is an international leader in the application of machine learning for understanding very large and complex spectroscopic datasets.

Discover more about the Centre.