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Corcoran Memorial Event – Friday 31st January 2020, 3.00 pm

31 Jan 20

The Corcoran Memorial Lecture and Memorial Prize is a biennial event.  The prize is awarded to students of the Department of Statistics for outstanding graduate work.

We are delighted to announce that the winner of the 2018 Corcoran Memorial Prize is Dr Sarah Penington.

The prize will be awarded at the Corcoran Memorial Prize Award and Lecture on Friday 31st January 2020.



Speaker:    Professor Frank den Hollander, Leiden University

Venue:       Large Lecture Theatre, Department of Statistics

Title:          Synchronisation with noise

Abstract:  Spontaneous synchronisation is ubiquitous in nature. Single oscillators (like flashing fireflies, chirping crickets or spiking brain cells) may rotate incoherently, at their own natural frequency, when they are isolated from each other. But within a population they adapt their rhythm to that of the other oscillators, acting as a system of coupled oscillators. There is no global
driving mechanism, yet the population reaches a globally synchronised state via mutual local interactions.

In this lecture we focus on the Kuramoto model, a mathematical model that describes interacting phase oscillators on a network. Each node of the network carries an oscillator that is subject
to noise. Pairs of oscillators interact with each other along the bonds of the network, at a given interaction strength. In the limit as the size of the network tends to infinity, there is a phase transition between an unsynchronised state and a synchronised state as the interaction strength crosses a critical threshold.

What makes the Kuramoto model exciting and challenging is that the interaction between the oscillators is non-linear. This allows for a very rich behaviour as a function of the underlying network. We focus on networks with a community structure. The biological clock of humans is located in the brain, in the so-called suprachiasmatic nucleus, which consists of two networks of neurons that are linked together. We will describe some of the features of the biological clock and relate them to the Kuramoto model.

3.00 pm     Welcome and Introduction

3.10 pm      Corcoran Memorial Lecture given by Professor Frank den hollander

4.10 pm      Award of Corcoran Memorial Prize 2018

4.20 pm     Short talk by 2018 prize winner, Dr Sarah Penington

4.45 pm     Drinks Reception


The Corcoran Memorial lectures are named in memory of Stephen Corcoran who was a graduate student in the Department of Statistics until his death in 1996. Stephen was a student of Wadham College, Oxford and graduated First Class Honours in Mathematics in 1991.  He subsequently gained a Diploma in Mathematical Statistics from Cambridge University before returning to Oxford to study for a D.Phil in Statistics.

Stephen’s research was in the field of empirical likelihood. He made substantial progress in this work but sadly his thesis remained unfinished at the time of his death from cancer. Part of Stephen’s uncompleted thesis was edited by Professor A. C. Davison and published in Biometrika (1998, pages 967-972).

A family bequest has established an annual lecture in honour of Stephen in which distinguished guest lecturers are invited to deliver a lecture on important aspects of their work. In addition, the Corcoran Memorial Prize is awarded every two years to students of the Department of Statistics for outstanding graduate work. The prizewinners are also invited to give a lecture.

Corcoran Memorial Prize Winners:






2018   Dr Sarah Penington

2016   Dr Fiona Skerman

2014   Dr Therese Graversen

2012   Dr Robin Ryder

2010   Dr Chris  Yau

2008   Dr Ludger Evers & Dr Chris Spencer (joint winners)

2006   Dr Simon Myers

2004   Dr Anja Sturm

2002   Dr Yih-Choung Teh

2000   Dr Matthew Stephens

1998   Mark Mathieson


Past Lecturers:

2017 Professor Steffen Lauritzen, Department of Mathematical Sciences, University of Copenhagen Maximum likelihood estimation in Gaussian models under total positivity
2015 Professor Arthur Gretton, Gatsby Computational Neuroscience Univer, University College London
2013 Professor Nils Lid Hjort, Department of Mathematics, University of Oslo Distributions of Confidence
2007 Professor David Spiegelhalter FRS, MRC Biostatistics Unit, University of Cambridge ‘Bayesian evidence synthesis 1: Meta-analysis allowing for the rigour and relevance of studies’ and ‘Bayesian evidence synthesis 2: Evaluating the introduction of a high-risk operation for congenital heart disease’
2003 Professor Terry Speed, The Walter & Eliz Hall Institute of Medical Research, Melbourne & Department of Statistics, University of California, Berkeley Measuring Gene Expression: Why Biologists Do, and Why Statisticians should show an interest
2002 Professor Anthony Davison, Swiss Federal Institute of Technology, Lausanne Galaxies, ticks and stock market crashes: hard times for the Poisson process
2001 Professor Peter Hall, Australian National University Nonparametric inference under constraints
2000 Professor Bernard Silverman, University of Bristol Using wavelet methods to fit models for time-frequency dependence