Polar ice shelf maths brings national recognition

Luke Bennetts

Associate Professor Luke Bennetts. Credit: Randy Larcombe

Using applied mathematics to investigate the impacts of climate change on polar ice shelves, and other geophysical problems, has brought national recognition for University of Adelaide’s Associate Professor Luke Bennetts with Australia’s top prize for mathematicians aged 40 and under.

Associate Professor Bennetts, Australian Research Council (ARC) Future Fellow in the University of Adelaide’s School of Mathematical Sciences, has been awarded the 2020 Australian Mathematical Society Medal for his distinguished research in the mathematical sciences.

His research combines analytical mathematics with advanced computational methods to tackle real-world, complex problems.

“Associate Professor Luke Bennetts is an applied mathematician at the University of Adelaide working on challenging mathematical problems applied to geophysical problems, in particular wave-ice interaction and catastrophic ice-shelf disintegration in polar regions,” the Australian Mathematical Society says in its citation. “The latter appears to be a key indicator of climate change.

“He is contributing mathematical advances to catastrophic ice-shelf disintegration at the earth’s poles (on which he has a Nature article), ocean wave energy harvesting and acoustic metamaterials.

“His papers are marked by a striking feature – relentless attention to making sure the mathematical models agree with field observations, measurements, and lab experiments; he is often thoroughly involved in making the measurements or designing the experiments.”

The citation goes on to say that the methodology developed by Associate Professor Bennetts is “immediately applicable to the improvement of, and contemporary research in, world-scale, coupled, operational climate forecasting”.

“His papers are marked by a striking feature – relentless attention to making sure the mathematical models agree with field observations, measurements, and lab experiments; he is often thoroughly involved in making the measurements or designing the experiments.”Australian Mathematical Society

“This is a highlight of my career, and was achieved with the support of my colleagues, collaborators and students. I look forward to working hard to live up to the award,” says Associate Professor Bennetts.

Throughout his career Associate Professor Bennetts has focussed on devising innovative mathematical techniques for problems in hydroelasticity (the motion of deformable bodies through liquids) and waves. He is now established as a research leader in these fields. The Journal of Fluid Mechanics has twice featured his research on its front cover.

In 2014 he co-initiated the Australasian KOZWaves conference series and, since 2016, he has been the Executive Committee Chair. He was awarded the Australian Academy of Science Christopher Heyde Medal for distinguished research in the mathematical sciences in 2016, and the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation Fellowship for Experienced Researchers in 2020.

Past University of Adelaide winners of the Australian Mathematical Society Medal include Professor Mathai Varghese (2000), Professor Michael Murray (1997) and Professor Mike Eastwood (1992).

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