Mathematicians in focus: Dr. Melissa Tacy

Today I have the privilege of bringing you this interview with Dr. Melissa Tacy, who is an Australian mathematician working with me at The University of Auckland. Enjoy!

Tell us a bit about yourself.

My name is Melissa Tacy, I’m a lecturer at the University of Auckland. I’m originally from Australia but moved “across the ditch” a few years ago in 2017.

What are your research interests?
I work in and area that is somewhat a cross between PDE and harmonic analysis. Most of the problems I look at are about quantifying properties of solutions to high energy PDE (such as their L^{p} growth rate or whether they can concentrate their L^{2} mass in small regions). By high energy I mean things like (-\Delta-\lambda^{2})u=0 for large \lambda. The harmonic analysis comes in both as a tool but also as an application.

How did you get to where you are now in your career?
That’s a long story. I did my PhD at ANU and finished in 2010. After that I spent 3.5 years doing postdocs in the US. I returned to Australia in early 2014 and took up a contract lectureship at University of Adelaide. After 2.5 years my contract was ending and at that point, with no job on the horizon, it was looking as if I would have to leave academia. Then in very short succession I got a short term research fellowship at ANU and was invited out to University of Otago to interview for a continuing position. The interview was successful and after and I moved to New Zealand in 2017. I worked at Otago for 3 years before I moved to Auckland in 2020.

What is one of your fondest memories from your days as a student?
I had a particularly fun time during the middle of my PhD when I spent about 9 months “on exchange” in Berkeley then came home the long way via Europe alternating between holiday and conferences/summer schools.

What’s something cool that you’ve been able to do as part of your job?
The travel has always been something I’ve particularly enjoyed (and something I miss in the COVID age). But some of the outreach activities I’ve been involved in have also been pretty fun. Things like explaining quantum chaos to a pub crowd or working with teachers and student maths groups on Kangaroo Island SA.

You were recently elected as the president of the NZMS. What does the NZMS do?
The NZMS is the New Zealand society for mathematicians. We do a range of things generally around promotion research and teaching in mathematics in New Zealand. For example one of the things we have recently done is to set up a reciprocal agreement with AMSI with the aim of supporting Trans-Tasman collaboration on research and education events.

What’s some advice you would give to your younger self?

Early on you will only be working one or two projects more or less continuously and will likely be able to keep a track of your progress in your own head. As your career develops you will expand the number of projects and your other responsibilities will force periods when you cannot work on research. Write everything down! This particularly applies to the ideas that didn’t work out. I’ve many times hit a dead end only to remember than I had already been down that path. Having all that information to hand saves a lot of time.

Thanks to Melissa for sharing a bit about her life as a mathematician with us! You can catch Melissa on Twitter here.

One comment

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s