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Associate Professor Ute Mueller

Associate Professor in Mathematics

Faculty of Computing, Health and Science


Ute Mueller's journey from mathematical physics to geostatistics

When I started studying for my first degree little did I know that this would be the start of an academic career. At that time my objective was simply to obtain an interesting degree that would ensure employability. Mathematics offered all this as there were plenty of industry positions available in Germany in the seventies.

My first exposure to research was through seminars and conferences held in mathematical physics while I was a student. Mathematical physics truly fascinated me. As a senior student in mathematics I started to shift focus towards that field and after my first degree in operator algebra, I enrolled in a PhD in quantisation theory. At one of the annual mathematical physics conferences I met S. T Ali who persuaded me to do research with him at Concordia University in Montreal. I needed a break from my PhD and so enrolled in an MSc in Mathematical Physics which I completed in just over a year. I still had the PhD looming large, but instead of moving back to Clausthal, I married and moved to Perth, as my husband received a scholarship to do a PhD in geology from UWA. I found work as a tutor in mathematics at Murdoch University. One and a half years later I completed my PhD thesis and fell into a hole! While I wrote up some of the work from my thesis, I did not start on any new research in the following three years, but rather concentrated on my teaching. Somehow mathematical physics did not look that interesting any longer....

We left Australia in 1991 and after one year in Germany and two years at Stanford University, we came back to Perth, this time as residents and because I had secured an on-going potion at ECU. While living in the US my interest in research revived and together with colleagues from Canada and Australia I published papers in operator theory and in quantisation.

My return to Perth prompted me to change my field of research to geostatistics, largely out of the realisation that Perth is simply too far away from the places where mathematical physics thrives, but also because I had been entertaining the idea of having a serious look at geostatistics for a while. In the second half of the 90s the time was rife for it, as PCs made research in geostatistics a real possibility. I joined forces with fellow ECU academic Lyn Bloom who had started work in the field a few years earlier. This was in 1998 and I have certainly not regretted the change. Geostatistics draws on many of the skills I have acquired over the years and has offered me the opportunity of working on many different types of data: mining, fisheries, environmental and even health.

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