Wednesday was a "great day" for University of Wollongong's self-described 'maths-nerd' Aidan Sims.
The head of UOW's School of Maths and Applied Statistics and senior professor in pure mathematics, was ecstatic UOW was establishing a Professorial Chair in Mathematical Sciences, thanks largely to a $1.25 million philanthropic gift from the Tibra Foundation.
The Tibra Foundation Chair in Mathematical Sciences is the first philanthropically funded chair in mathematics in Australia in more than 100 years.
"That is huge," Professor Sims said.
"Just now anything that raises the profile of how important mathematics is and how topical it is and what a worthwhile area it is to study, is huge.
"The School of Maths and Applied Statistics here has world-leading strength in pure maths and in applied maths and in statistics.
"Anything we can do to raise the profile of that and to showcase that and to bring international researchers in here, to bring students into the mathematical sciences locally within the region and also from further abroad - that is exactly what we are out to do."
Read more: First look inside new Bunnings at Kembla Grange
Several of the company's founders are UOW mathematics alumni.
Arman Schwarz is not one of them but the Tibra Foundation committee member and Corrimal resident was happy to partner with UOW once again.
"There is a massive shortage of mathematical skills within Australia, which isn't helped by the declining role and perception of mathematics in Australia," Mr Schwarz said.
"The foundation's goals are aligned with those at UOW - we are both trying to champion mathematical sciences within Australia."
Logistically the Tibra Foundation will fund the remuneration of the Chair - a five-year intensive research position - which is sure to attract a competitive field.
"We are going to be involved in communicating and liaising with this person, whoever it may be," Mr Schwarz said.
"We are going to use the connection that we build with this individual to better understand where we could also direct future funding and what activities we can pursue.
"There was some discussion of the role of the Illawarra as some sort of hub for mathematics, that's something that is really compelling for us.
"If we can be involved in supporting that, maybe we can get other philanthropic organisations involved, that would be fantastic."
Since 2013, the average enrolment in mathematics degrees at Australian universities has been declining, and is now at less than 0.5 per cent of the total student cohort.
Prof Sims hoped the Chair would attract more students.
"The Chair will also do a bit of teaching, which gives us that extra capacity for the advanced mathematics programs that we teach and to put someone really exciting in front of this generation of students and get them into mathematics," he said.
"We are also really excited about the outreach part of the Chair's job - it involves getting out into schools and getting students enthusiastic about studying mathematical sciences and championing this new data science and analytics degree that we are offering.
"I just want to reiterate how grateful we are to the foundation for the partnership with us that is building here, and also to the staff in our school, who over the last 12 years have worked so hard on building that trust and partnership that has led to this occasion."
We depend on subscription revenue to support our journalism. If you are able, please subscribe here. If you are already a subscriber, thank you for your support.
Sign up for breaking news email ...