Who says Mathematics is useless? It can be useful one day in your career, or just for increasing your general knowledge.
Mathematician Professor Terry Speed wins PM’s science prize
Professor Terry Speed, Head of Bioinformatics at the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute of Medical Research, Melbourne, who has been awarded the Prime Minister’s Award for Science. Picture: Ray Strange Source: News Limited
The man who last night won the Prime Minister’s Science Prize agrees maths is “not sexy” but it saw him give evidence at the O.J Simpson trial, helped find diamonds and now is determining the cause of cancer.
Mathematician Professor Terry Speed was called as an expert witness for O.J. Simpson in the famous 1995 murder trial where he helped explain to the jury how statistics underpinning DNA worked.
Simpson was acquitted after a trial that lasted more than eight months because his lawyers were able to persuade the jurors that there was reasonable doubt about the DNA evidence.
Forty five years ago Professor Speed testified at the trial of Ronald Ryan, the last man to be hanged in Australia.
He had to explain the geometry of the trajectory of bullets in the case.
In an extensive career the 70 year old statistics whiz has helped determine the size and distribution of Argyle diamonds and looked at kangaroo genomics.
Right now he is working at the cutting edge of medical science helping scientists develop statistical tools to understand the huge volumes of information coming from the human genome.
Work he’s done for a company on a thyroid cancer diagnostic test could help prevent thousands of people from having their thyroids removed unnecessarily.
At present some thyroid tests are inconclusive and tumours are removed even though they turn out to be benign leaving the patient taking hormone replacement therapy for the rest of their lives.
Some of his work is in developing tools that find which genes or gene characteristics may cause cancer if they are switched on or off.
Professor Speed says part of the reason so many people don’t want to study maths and science is they don’t see its potential.
He’s spent his life applying mathematical theories to crime, farming, mining and medical science.