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December 2005 Issue
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Eastwood shaping a symmetrical vision


The recipient of the single largest individual ARC grant, Professor Michael Eastwood from the Discipline of Pure Mathematics, is no stranger
to funding success.

He will receive $800,000 over five years in an Australian Professorial Fellowship - his fourth such consecutive ARC fellowship since 1991.

He will use the funding to continue his research into symmetry in the field of differential geometry - the study of shape using calculus and differential equations.

"Calculus is to do with rates of change, and using it as part of differential geometry helps to make precise the idea of curvature," Professor Eastwood said.

"Curvature underpins a lot of things, including much of mathematical physics - Einstein's Theory of General Relativity is based on curvature, for example.

"What I'm doing is looking at how symmetry affects our understanding of shape, and the curvature of various objects."

Professor Eastwood said using mathematics to understand curvature was not a new idea, and has already had a major impact on everyday life.

"Medical imaging is a good example: the interior of the human body has lots of curvature and tissue of different densities and yet almost 100 years ago we began to work out how to make sense of information we received from transmitting various types of energy through the body in things like X-rays," he said. "Anytime that anyone gets a CAT scan today, that's mathematics at work.

"Seismology is another example: working out what is going on underneath the surface of the Earth, another curved object, using various detection points spread across the world."

With international collaborations in many countries across Europe, North America, Asia and the Pacific, Professor Eastwood said his research, while theoretical in nature, was part of a field which was far from an abstract pursuit.

"The things that pure mathematicians work on today don't necessarily translate into everyday applications overnight," he said. "But people talk, and ideas percolate, and eventually developments which are important for large numbers of people can result."

Story by Ben Osborne

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Professor Michael Eastwood
Photo by Ben Osborne

Professor Michael Eastwood
Photo by Ben Osborne

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