Maths whiz graduates with second PhD

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Few people have PhDs. Gaining two is even more uncommon. WITT tutor Dr Parul Tiwari joins that rare cohort – she was recently capped with her second PhD in mathematics.

She graduated in May at Lincoln University for her second doctoral study, this one in Mathematical and Computational Modelling of Complex Systems. In it, she explores how modelling complex systems can be used to problem-solve real world issues, such as monitoring underground water quality for contamination.

Parul is the second WITT tutor to gain a double PhD recently. Dr Walaa Ghazy, who teaches in the Māori Enterprise, Business and Technology school, graduated last year with a doctoral study on stock market responsiveness to certain effects.

In her teaching Parul champions diverse applications of maths in everyday life. She’s been teaching maths to engineering students at WITT, and in Hamilton and Christchurch through Te Pūkenga, since 2022.

Researching a doctoral thesis sounds like a tall order on top of teaching. But she just loves learning. “I’ve always thought there is no age or time limit to learning new things. There are still so many things to learn, and I always look for options.”

She likes to demonstrate to her students that maths is inherent in everything we do; from the technology we use daily to measuring and evaluate climate change effects.

“I always connect the topic I’m teaching to real life and how they use it, then how they use it in the workplace. Directly or indirectly – for example, all the software they use is based on mathematical concepts.”

From algebra and calculus to derivatives – there is no escaping maths, be it driving a car (think velocity and acceleration) to washing machines (water temperature, loads and timing). 

“Maths is the base for engineering subjects. It’s important we make sure the students have this base,” she says.

Her research at WITT on student engagement with maths won the People’s Choice Award at annual Hui Kōrerorero Rangahau event last November.

An undeniable maths genius, Parul was not a big fan of maths at school. Her mother, a schoolteacher, encouraged her to study across all subjects. Later, a school friend who was good at maths inspired her to take more interest, then having a young, dynamic teacher at university who made maths fun prompted her to focus fully on mathematics.

She completed her first PhD – a study in solid mechanics - in 2008 in India. She worked with various institutes in India where she taught graduates and postgraduates for almost 18 years and became an Associate Professor.

Maths and nature

The opportunity to do research and another PhD at Lincoln University prompted Parul to move here from India with her husband and two children. She then taught in the mathematics department at the University of Auckland before moving to Taranaki.

Among her research activities was a government-funded project with New Zealand Wine Growers using mathematical modelling to improve the quality of locally grown pinot noir.

And her latest doctoral research could, she hopes, be applied to the local environment for water quality assessment.

“There are uncertainties of how surface water contamination filters down to underground water systems,” she explains.

Tracking climate change impacts is another. “If you look at the mountain [Taranaki], we see so many variations. Like when rain touches the rocks and changes the structure. We can model this mathematically to see the impact and change over time and to help us understand how the climate is changing.”

“Thinking in a mathematical way gives us more accurate predictions. We can say things are changing, the climate is changing – and what are the important parameters that we can figure out.”

“Mathematics can model almost everything,” she says. “That’s why we say: ‘Maths is the mother of all sciences.’”


A double PhD scholar, Dr Parul Tiwari shares her love of applied mathematics with her students at WITT.

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