Tian Sang
Tian Sang

Tell us a little bit about yourself

I’m currently in my second year of the PhD degree under supervision of Dr. Vera Roshchina and Prof. Andrew Eberhard. I was driven and derermined to work in mathematical science research since I was in my second year of undergraduate studies, thanks to the amazing positive influence from my Master’s thesis supervisor Dr. Lawrence Reeves at the University of Melbourne.

My current research focus is on theoretical optimisation. In particular, I work on geometry for structured optimisation problems, such as conic optimisation, facial structure for convex sets, polyhedral theory, etc. My research background was in geometric group theory before I started my PhD program, therefore, it is fortunate that I have the opportunities to see many optimisation problems with views from a different field. Modern developments in optimisation theory and in particular in conic optimisation rely heavily on algebraic ideas, and algebraic geometry, group theory, geometry, and many other pure mathematics areas play central role in understanding the geometry of optimisation problems and in developing solution techniques for new challenging problems.

If you could meet any Fields Medalist or Abel Prize winner, which would it be and why

I would like to meet Abel Prize winner Sir Andrew John Wiles. I am absolutely amazed about Wiles’s proof on Fermat’s Last Theorem, one of the most notorious problems in the history of mathematics. However, it is not only the mathematics within that is fascinating, but also how Wiles was driven to the beauty of Fermat’s Last Theorem since he was a teenager. Passion, driven wish, persistence are absolutely some of the most valuable characters one can have in his life.

Why do you want to attend the Heidelberg Laureate Forum?

It is such an honour for me to be selected to participate HLF, especially being able to interact with those famous amazing mathematicians and scientists who received Fields Medals, Abel Prize, and Turing Awards. Also, I believe it will be a fantastic experience to meet all the brilliant young researchers around the world at HLF, share my work and exchange ideas with more people as well as learn different perspectives from others’ work, and develop myself to be a better mathematician for the future. Apart from that, I am considering overseas research opportunities some day after completing my PhD degree, and I believe it is crucial to build up good network connections with fellow mathematicians, get to know ongoing and future research projects. I am confident that participating in HLF program will give me very valuable experience on mathematical science research outside of Australia.

What are your favourite applications of your work?

Firstly, mathematics certainly has plenty of great applications in real life. In particular with my work in theoretical optimisation, it is very useful for people who work in real life optimisation or modellings to be able to have valid and efficient theories to support their work. 

Apart from that, there is one long quote that I like a lot by Hermann von Helmholtz-“Mathematics and music, the most sharply contrasted fields of scientific activity which can be found, and yet related, supporting each other, as if to show forth the secret connection which ties together all the activities of our mind, and which leads us to surmise that the manifestations of the artist’s genius are but the unconscious expressions of a mysteriously acting rationality.” 

I certainly consider music is one of my favourite “applications” for the mathematics! I’ve been passionate about the music since 5 years old, and have always enjoyed playing piano, Chinese bamboo flute, ukulele, harmonic, etc, and I always appreciate the beauty and emotion contained within the music. Recently I joined a symphony orchestra for the first time in my life, thanks to the amazing influence from my dear musician friend Greg Sully, who plays with with Melbourne Symphony Orchestra as well as many fantastic musicals. I was being placed into percussion group which I have never experienced before, but everything I do there fits into one of the quote by Leibniz: “Music is the pleasure the human soul experiences from counting without being aware that it is counting.” That makes perfect sense for a mathematician percussionist!