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About the School

Norbert Quirk Mathematical Essay Competition

History of the Norbert Quirk Prizes

The Norbert Quirk Prizes of the University of Sydney were founded in 1886 by a donation in memory of the Reverend John Norbert Quirk, Principal of Lyndhurst College. These prizes are for the written exposition of mathematics, and for many years were associated with the Sydney University Mathematical Society Problem Competition.

Starting from 2016, the Norbert Quirk Prizes Nos 1,2,3 (current value: $250 each) will be awarded each year to the best entries in the Norbert Quirk Mathematical Essay Competition received from University of Sydney students in the first, second and third years (respectively) of their undergraduate studies. The Norbert Quirk Prize No 4 will be awarded to a student in one of the Honours programs of the School of Mathematics and Statistics for their Honours essay.

2017 Essay Topic

The competition topic for 2017 is the application of the mathematical sciences to the life sciences. The diversity of the areas of mathematics and statistics which have found such an application has expanded in recent decades to encompass some areas traditionally seen as pure mathematics as well as applied mathematics, statistics and bioinformatics.

In an essay of at most 15 pages, describe a particular application of mathematics or statistics to research in biology, medicine or fields closely related to these. You should explain both the mathematical/statistical theory involved and the significance of the application in context.

Your essay should be written to be understandable by undergraduate students in mathematics or statistics. Essays will be judged according to the following criteria:

  • correctness and clarity of exposition of mathematical/statistical ideas;
  • demonstrated understanding of the research context in the relevant areas;
  • originality and interest;
  • elegance of expression and formatting;
  • accuracy and appropriateness of referencing.

2017 Judging Panel and Key Dates

The 2017 Norbert Quirk Mathematical Essay Competition will be judged by a panel consisting of Dr Lamiae Azizi, Professor Anthony Henderson and Dr Robert Marangell from the School of Mathematics and Statistics, using the criteria described above. The key dates are:

  • Friday August 18, 2017, 5pm: deadline to register as a potential entrant by emailing Anthony Henderson with your name, student ID, UniKey and year of study.
  • Friday August 25, 2017, 5pm: deadline to submit your essay via Turnitin.
  • September 2017: prizewinners notified.

See below for the competition rules. For further information and clarification, please email Anthony Henderson.

Competition Rules

  • Entrants must be undergraduate students of the University of Sydney who are not enrolled in an Honours program (or equivalent). They need not be currently enrolled in any units offered by the School of Mathematics and Statistics. Previous years' prizewinners may enter the competition again.
  • One prize will be awarded to the best entry from students in each of first year, second year, and third year, provided that entry is of sufficient quality. Subject to the previous rule, students who have been enrolled for more than six full-time semesters (or equivalent) may also enter, and will be counted as third-year students for the judging of prizes.
  • Prizes may be shared in the event that two or more entries are of equal merit.
  • The decisions of the judging panel are final.
  • Entries must not exceed 15 pages, including all references and diagrams.
  • Entries must be in English, typed rather than handwritten, and in either PDF or Word file format. They should be single-spaced in 12 point font (or equivalent), and should preferably use LaTeX for mathematical typesetting.
  • The essays entrants submit must be their own work. In accordance with usual academic practice, all sources used or quoted should be fully referenced. Entrants may discuss their essays with others, including students or staff members of the University, but all substantial contributions by other people must be fully disclosed and treated as external sources.
  • Entries must be submitted using Turnitin via the Learning Management System, and will be checked for originality. To obtain access to the relevant LMS page, entrants must register by email before the stated deadline. Registering as a potential entrant does not entail any further commitment.