Retirement of Gentle Intellectual Giant
Joyful, knowledgeable, kind and humble may not typically be words used to describe a Professor of Pure Mathematics but it best describes retiring AIML Professor Wojciech Chojnacki.
Wojciech started his association with Computer Science in 1991 - joining the University of Adelaide as a grant funded researcher working with Professor Michael Brooks, who is currently Acting Vice Chancellor, The University of Adelaide.
Mike was working on an area of Computer Vision which had “incredibly awful maths problems, problems that even mathematicians would shudder at their difficulty”. Wojciech was just what Mike needed, a Pure Maths professor from Warsaw who could solve these incredibly difficult problems.
For Mike it was always comforting to have Wojciech in next room to explain sophisticated mathematical papers. Mike claims there is no maths that Wojciech can’t understand – and he is thankful for Wojciech’s contribution and friendship over the years.
In 2015 Wojciech was awarded a State Professorship from the President of Poland. This was a wonderful accolade from the country of his birth.
Professor Anton van den Hengel, currently Director of the Australian institute for Machine Learning, recognises the immense contribution that Wojciech’s incredible knowledge of math had on his own PhD. Wojciech has deep insights and the rare ability to see through complexity to the apparent simplicity underneath and explain it. In fact Wojciech must have explained the challenges of Singular Value Decomposition over one hundred times, always with extreme patience.
Wojciech has an impressive two PhDs. The first in functional analysis (On Banach means and their vector-valued analogues) and the second in differential equations and harmonic analysis (Cocycles and their applications in the spectral analysis of differential operators and harmonic analysis). Functional analysis, differential equations theory, and harmonic analysis are three different, but related, disciplines of pure mathematics of fundamental theoretical relevance, but also with an ample amount of practical applications.
Wojciech also has deep love of history, particularly European history and the history of mathematics – and an in depth grasp of quantum physics. He is a habitual swimmer in the sea no matter the weather. Wojciech also loves food - many have enjoyed his company at lunchtime over a bowl of his famous soup.
In recent times Wojciech has worked closely with Dr Zygmunt Szpak, Senior Research Associate at the Australian Institute for Machine Learning who characterises Wojciech as a joyful positive person who is always willing the shine some of his joy and light into your life. He is a humble, gentle intellectual giant and very approachable.
Wojciech has shown Zygi how to think deeply about problems from bottom layer and build structure from the beginning. This deep thinking and generosity in collaboration has been evident throughout Wojciech’s career. He delights in the truth of things.
Zygi says Wojciech is a way maker who has opened up many opportunities from passing on his skills. Anyone who has had the chance to collaborate with him always walks away a little bit richer, little bit more competent.
We would like to thank Wojciech for his years of service, and generosity as a collaborator and teacher and wish him much happiness in retirement.
Professor Wojciech Chojnacki has been awarded an Adjunct Professorship at the University of Adelaide and we know that Wojciech will not be a stranger at AIML.
Thank you to Hilary Brookes (AIML Executive Officer) for putting this story together.