Professor Michael Plank Professor Michael Plank

Michael Plank is a Professor in the School of Mathematics and Statistics at the University of Canterbury in New Zealand and Principal Investigator at Te Pūnaha Matatini, New Zealand's Centre of Research Excellence in Complex Systems and Data Analytics. He obtained his BSc(Hons) in Mathematics from the University of Bristol in 2000 and his PhD in Applied Mathematics from the University of Leeds in 2003. He started at the University of Canterbury as a postdoctoral research fellow in 2004 and as a permanent academic staff member in 2006.

Professor Plank is an expert in mathematical modelling of complex biological and social systems at multiple scales, from intracellular signalling and collective cell behaviour, through to large ecosystem dynamics. His research is application-driven and focuses on mechanistic mathematical and stochastic models that capture emergent behaviour and offer qualitative insight into underlying mechanisms. His areas of expertise include ecological and social networks, population dynamics, epidemiological models, size-structured marine ecosystems, collective cell behaviour, and intracellular dynamics. His research draws on numerous fields in applied mathematics including stochastic processes, integro and partial differential equations, dynamical systems, spatial moment dynamics, statistical modelling, and parameter inference.

His research has funded been funded by industry and government, by Te Pūnaha Matatini and by grants from the Marsden Fund and Australian Research Council. Professor Plank has served in various governance and editorial roles. He is currently President of the NZ Branch of Australia and New Zealand Industrial and Applied Mathematics (ANZIAM) and a member of the University of Canterbury's Academic Board. He is an Editorial Board member for the ANZIAM Journal. He has served as a panellist for the Marsden Fund and Performance-Based Research Fund and represents ANZIAM at the International Council for Industrial and Applied Mathematics.


For a complete list of publications, see my UC Research Profile or my Google Scholar Profile. If you would like a copy of any of my publications, feel free to email me.

Potential postgraduate and Honours students

If you are interested in any of my currently available projects, please get in touch with me.

The University of Canterbury offers a limited number of Doctoral Scholarships (fees plus stipend), which are open to domestic and international students. There are also fees-only scholarships for Masters and Doctoral students.

Specific scholarships or job vacancies will be posted here when available. See also Te Pūnaha Matatini scholarships and Te Pūnaha Matatini student internships

Current projects and grants

  • Mathematical modelling to support New Zealand's all-of-government response to COVID-19 - with Shaun Hendy, Alex James, Rachelle Binny, Audrey Lustig - funded by MBIE (2020-2021)
  • Mathematical models of 4D multicellular spheroids: mathematical model development and mathematical model parameterisation - with Matthew Simpson and Nikolas Haass - funded by the Australian Research Council (2020-2023)
  • Improving biosecurity outcomes via surveillance analytics - with Alex James and postdoctoral fellow Rebecca Turner (Scion Research) - funded by Te Pūnaha Matatini and the Biological Heritage National Science Challenge (2018-2021)
  • Mathematical models of cell migration in three-dimensional living tissues - with Matthew Simpson and Ruth Baker - funded by the Australian Research Council (2017-2020)

Current students

  • Giorgia Vattiato: Modelling effects of individual heterogeneity on emergent population characteristics
  • Stephen Merry: Network models for TB in a possum population
  • Julie Mugford: Developing methods to reduce uncertainty with citizen science data

Past projects and grants

  • Very large-scale conservation: pan-regional control of invasive predators - with Alex James and postdoctoral research fellow Audrey Lustig - funded by Te Pūnaha Matatini (2017-2020)
  • The role of intercellular signalling in neurovascular coupling - with Tim David (2013-2019)
  • Social network models for identifying vulnerable children - with Alex James and Jeanette McLeod - funded by Ministry of Social Development (2017-2018)
  • Cell invasion: interactions across scales - with Matthew Simpson and Richard Law - funded by the RSNZ Marsden Fund (2012-2015)
  • Population models of Tradescantia fluminensis - with Alex James - funded by AgResearch (2010-2016)
  • Aquatic ecosystem dynamics: size or species - with Richard Law - funded by the by RSNZ Marsden Fund (2009-2012)
  • Quantifying the effect of garden waste displosal on the spread of invasive species - with Alex James - funded by the Department of Conservation
  • Modelling invasive species and weed impact - with Jennifer Brown and Alex James - funded by the NZ Institute for Mathematics and its Applications (2006-2010)

Past student theses

Media and blogs

Michael Plank, School of Mathematics and Statistics, University of Canterbury, Christchurch 8140, New Zealand
Tel: +64 3 3692462