The Bernhard Neumann Prize

This Prize is awarded for the most outstanding talk presented by a student at the Annual Meeting of the Australian Mathematical Society. The prize is named for Professor Bernhard H. Neumann AC FAA FRS FAustMS (1909–2002), who played a central role in the Society since its founding. As well as having a distinguished research record in group theory, Bernhard Neumann was a strong supporter of programs for talented students at all levels of their mathematical education.

With great sadness the Society recorded the passing of Professor Neumann on 21 October 2002, just a few weeks after presenting this award at the Newcastle meeting of the Society.

Past Winners

1985Derek N. Ward University of New South Wales
1986Anis A. Inayat-Hussain
Robert L McIntosh
University of Western Australia
Australian National University
1987Eamonn O'BrienAustralian National University
1988no award
1989Ian S. BarnesAustralian National University
1990Xuan Thinh DongMacquarie University
1991Michael Hartley
S.O. Warnaar
University of Western Australia
Australian National University
1992Jacqui Ramagge University of New South Wales
1993Maureen EdwardsUniversity of Wollongong
1994Ljijana BrankovicUniversity of Newcastle
1995May NilsenUniversity of Newcastle
1996Ian WanlessAustralian National University
1997Marcel JacksonUniversity of Tasmania
1998Ruth CorranUniversity of Sydney
1999Csaba SchneiderAustralian National University
2000Andrew ScottUniversity of Queensland
2001Mark Aarons
Stephan Tillman
Monash University
University of Melbourne
2002Sivajah SomasundaramUniversity of Waikato
2003Ben Burton
William Hart
University of Melbourne
Macquarie University
2004Jonathan A. CohenAustralian National University
2005Geoffrey PearceUniversity of Western Australia
2006Benjamin WilsonUniversity of Sydney
2007Norman Do
Neil Saunders
University of Melbourne
University of Sydney
2008Nicole KleinstreuerUniversity of Canterbury
Parinya Sa Ngiamsunthorn
Michael Pauley
Raymond Vozzo
University of Sydney
Univ of Western Australia
University of Adelaide
2009Samuel CohenUniversity of Adelaide
Michael Pauley
Neil Saunders
Melissa Tacey
Dan Turetsky
University of Western Australia
University of Sydney
Australia National University
Victoria University of Wellington, NZ
2010Anita PonsaingUniversity of Melbourne
Wendy Baratta
Ali Eshragh
Ivan Guo
Tyson Ritter
Roger Senior
University of Melbourne
University of South Australia
University of Sydney
University of Adelaide
Australia National University
2011James Wan University of Newcastle
Nicholas Beaton
Alexander Hanysz
Robyn Stuart
MASCOS/University of Melbourne
University of Adelaide
University of New South Wales
2012Imam Tashdid ul Alam Australian National University
Kareem Elgindy
David Hartley
Yi Huang
Saba Majeed
Stephen Sanchez
Monash University
Monash University
University of Melbourne
University of South Australia
University of New South Wales
2013Adrian Dudek Australian National University
Alex Ament
Stephen McCormick
John Nakhoul
Matthew Tam
Tri Thang Tran
Australian National University
Monash University
University of Sydney
University of Newcastle
University of Melbourne
2014Joshua HowieUniversity of Melbourne
Kamil Bulinski
Inna Lukyanenko
Calum Robertson
Cameron Rogers
Kyle Talbot
Elena Tartaglia
University of Sydney
University of Queensland
Monash University
University of Newcastle
Monash University
University of Melbourne
2015Murray Neuzerling
Matthew Tam
La Trobe University
University of Newcastle
Joshua Howie
Adrianne Jenner
Brendan Patch
Danya Rose
University of Melbourne
University of Sydney
University of Queensland
University of Sydney
2016Hao Guo University of Adelaide
Scott Lindstrom
Sean Carnaffan
Anthony Carapetis
Trang Thi Thien Nguyen
University of Newcastle
University of Sydney
Australian National University
University of South Australia

Rules for the B.H. Neumann Prize

The following rules apply.

  1. Only students who are members of the Australian Mathematical Society are eligible.
  2. Student will mean a person studying either full-time or part-time, without age limit. Furthermore the student may be either postgraduate or undergraduate.
  3. The Prize is to be at a value as determined from time to time by Council and a certificate suitable for framing will be presented.
  4. The Prize will be awarded at the Society's Annual Dinner, to which the Prizewinner will be invited as a guest.
  5. All student talks should be scheduled to be given by the day preceding the Annual Dinner so that the Prize Committee can have proper discussion and also so that the Prizewinner can be informed in good time to attend the Dinner.
  6. The Prize Committee shall be appointed by Council after consultation with the Conference Director.
  7. The existence of this Prize shall be well publicised in the Conference literature.
  8. If, in the opinion of the Prize Committee, there are no candidates of sufficient merit, then no Prize will be awarded.
  9. The cut-off date for eligibility of students for the B.H. Neumann Student Prize should be 3 months after submission of a PhD thesis.

Approved by Council, March 1992.

Value of the B.H. Neumann Prize:

  • From 2011 the value shall be $1000 for a single winner or $600 to each person if the prize is shared.

Approved by Council, September 2010.

Criteria — B.H. Neumann Prize

The criteria which the prize committee will use for the award of the B.H. Neumann Prize are:

  1. the motivation and setting of the general context,
  2. the methods used to present the material,
  3. the organisation and structure of the lecture,
  4. the originality of the substance of the lecture, and
  5. the rapport with the audience.

Approved by Council, Sept. 1994

Advice for B.H. Neumann Student Prize Talks

The following information,, updated in 2017 from that written by the Prize Committee in 1993, provides valuable advice for all speakers at AustMS conferences — not just students!

At each Annual Meeting of the Australian Mathematical Society, students are considered for the B.H. Neumann prize for thethe most outstanding talk given by a student at the Meeting.

As the judging panel for the 1993 Meeting at the University of Wollongong we believe that we should set out the criteria we used for our decision and offer some guidance for future competitors. Although future judging panels need not be formally bound by our ideas, we would expect them to take a similar view. Our judgement was based on three main criteria: presentation, content and rapport with the audience.

Talks are about communication, and with mathematics (even amongst mathematicians) this is a formidable task. The speaker has to keep in mind that diverse mathematical interests are represented in the audience. So the introduction can afford to be relatively long. Effort has to be made to get as many as possible motivated by a clear simple statement of the problem area.

We have to be realistic about what can be covered and what an audience can absorb in a half-hour talk. Very often we get excited about the solution to a problem and we want to tell about this to the last detail. But be careful, sometimes great discoveries are lost in the complexity of a polished generalisation. The audience has a better chance of catching the excitement of the discovery and valuing it if they can appreciate the first elemental insights which led to the completed work. If you catch the audience's interest then afterwards they will ask for your paper to pursue the details.

Of course it is important that the talk be well prepared. The prize committee is looking for the most outstanding student talk; there is a certain sameness to talks presented using Beamer/. Beamer also brings the temptation to paste in too much material directly from a manuscript or to click back and forth looking for a previous definition. A good talk is different in structure from a paper or thesis, and your audience will not appreciate a rushed, compressed version of either. Remember that a picture may be worth 1000 words, either included in slides or drawn by hand, whether to illustrate results or a process. However, make sure that where diagrams have been constructed in Maple etc. that any scale or legend is large enough to be read. Whiteboard talks, when well presented, with planned use of the space, are often well-received; they have immediacy and novelty.

Care should be taken to consider how much formal proof material can reasonably he presented in a half-hour talk. Perhaps the proof of one key result can he presented towards the end of the talk. Preferably such a proof should he given by outline showing how main ideas interact. Remember, the talk is to communicate and create interest in the material. The talk is not successful if the speaker overwhelms the audience with a mass of detail that they could not possible follow even given a much longer time.

Mostly the speaker's concern is with the mathematical content; after all, wrestling with a problem and organizing its solution has been a consuming occupation. The Committee is concerned about the originality of the material and the speaker's contribution to the solution. It is important for the speaker, when setting the problem in context, to explain the work they are building on and to explain the role the speaker played and to mention collaborators. An assessment of the weight of the contribution and an outline of the problems which remain are also of value and help the audience gain some perspective on the depth and relevance of the work. It is useful to illustrate the material with examples because this makes the argument more convincing and is often a point of contact with the audience.

The speaker should try to gauge whether the audience is following the presentation. Of course, it is difficult to present complex material in a restricted time and have concern for audience understanding. Nevertheless, a successful talk depends on it. Audience interest often shows itself in questioning during or at the end of the talk. The Committee is interested to see how the speaker handles questions. One of the most fruitful outcomes of any talk is the building of research contacts.

Finally, all students preparing to give talks should do a "dry run" at their home university well before the conference to a friendly audience containing an experienced speaker and someone not directly in the field. From such a preliminary presentation the amount of material can be checked. This will help to highlight the key points which should be the focus of the talk. Often there will be the discovery that many non-essential side issues will need to be excised to give a clearer presentation in the short time. Necessary revisions can be made. A home audience is likely to be more constructively critical and will play a crucial role in advising about polishing the presentation.

There is a valuable paper written by the master expositor, Paul Halmos, which should he essential reading for all postgraduate students. The reference is "How to talk mathematics'' Notices Amer. Math. Soc. 21 (1974), 155–168.

B.H. Neumann Prize judging panel, 1993.

  • John Giles (Newcastle) (Committee Chair)
  • Bob Bryce (ANU)
  • Mike Englefield (Monash)
  • Mike Newman (ANU)

The following report (in PDF format) was written by Jacqui Ramagge who has been a regular judge for the award (and herself won the award in 1992):

Updated: 04 Sep 2017