Professor Benjamin Burton

Class of 1992
Professor of Mathematics, The University of Queensland

Educator, change-maker and earth-mover are just a few words that may be used to describe Professor Benjamin Burton and his work. Some of his academic achievements at John Paul College included The Munns Prize, Dux of the College in Year Twelve, and gaining Dux of his grade each year since he was in Year Eight, and JPC Vice-Captaincy. Benjamin was always destined for a successful academic future.

Benjamin says, it was his teachers at JPC, particularly Mrs Nada Griffiths the Head of Mathematics, who encouraged his involvement in extra-curricular academic activities like the International Mathematical Olympiad and attending the National Mathematics Summer School at the young age of 17. This sparked a passion in Benjamin for the possibilities that further applications in mathematics offered.

‘It helped me understand what is true and what is false, what you can do and what you cannot do in mathematics’ Benjamin says.

With a multi-disciplinary background covering geology and topology, combinatorics, information security and finance, Benjamin’s expertise as a professor is not limited by the classrooms of The University of Queensland (UQ). Instead it is nurtured into an ever-growing list of proactive research fuelled by a curious passion and love of learning.

Benjamin graduated with a Bachelor of Arts and a Bachelor of Science with First-class Honours at UQ and then went on to complete his PhD at The University of Melbourne where he worked on his thesis on computational knot theory.

Benjamin is the Director of the National Mathematics Summer School for gifted mathematics students in Year Eleven, hosted annually in Canberra since 2014, was the Chief Coach for the International Olympiad in Informatics (IOI) 1999 to 2008, was on the IOI Scientific Committee — 2009 to 2014 and has held a seat on the International Committee since 2014, which is the main organising body.

He admits academia has a rewarding nature as he loves seeing students make significant headway on problems that have never been tackled before, and those students who can’t solve problems are comforted in the knowledge that no one before them has solved the issue either.

If dedicating his life to solving problems in academia wasn’t enough, Benjamin is also involved in a number of outreach programs, including the involvement in women’s rights and diversity within the Australian Mathematical Society, and is a proud member of the LGBTIAQ+ (Lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender/transsexual, intersex, asexual and queer/questioning) UQ Ally Network.

Benjamin says he is proud to be involved in the School of Mathematics and Physics at UQ with the knowledge it is one of the most inclusive environments for LGBTIAQ+ members, so much so that UQ won silver in the 2019 national Pride in Diversity awards.

‘Having secured a platform as a professor comes with a bit of clout’ Benjamin says, ‘so having that platform is important as it’s good for people to see someone can reach the position and use that platform to help create change.’

Benjamin hopes to continue actively pursuing research and education, with a change every few years to develop his knowledge and skills. He mentions it was spurred on by the passion of his Mathematics teachers at JPC as they encouraged him to discover the applications available to him outside of the traditional scope of education.

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