Louise Olsen-Kettle

veski inspiring women career recovery grant recipient

Swinburne University

A veski inspiring women career recovery grant is awarded to Dr Louise Olsen-Kettle, a Vice Chancellor’s Women in STEM Fellow in Mathematics at Swinburne University of Technology.

New models for forecasting risk and damage in novel materials

Dr Olsen-Kettle works in the field of additive manufacturing (AM), or 3D printing, which has revolutionised the way products are developed and manufactured. Traditional approaches to fabricate composite materials are labour intensive and expensive; AM provides a fast and ideal approach to manufacturing a small volume of delicate parts. Dr Olsen-Kettle’s research focuses on the design of stronger and more resilient AM parts through numerical simulations.

Transferable across many industry sectors – including composites, manufacturing, oil and gas, construction and mining – Dr Olsen-Kettle’s research delivers mathematical and computational models of damage to provide new understanding in forecasting risk and damage in a range of novel materials and resources. Her work employs the Finite Element Method, widely used for numerically solving differential equations arising in engineering or applied mathematics.

Swinburne University’s closure during the 2020 COVID-19 lockdown affected Dr Olsen-Kettle’s team. Her ability to focus on publications and off-campus collaborations was affected by increased responsibilities including caring for young children, and travel bans impeded international collaborations. Funding from veski will support a research assistant with expertise in software engineering to ensure that the meshing software developed by Dr Olsen-Kettle’s research team can be reused and applied to multiple products. While creating reusable code involves considerable investment in the development stage, the projected outcomes are significant.

A commitment to mentoring

Dr Olsen-Kettle has a PhD in theoretical and computational physics and chemistry from the University of Queensland, completing postdoctoral research at National Taiwan University and the University of Queensland. She was an ARC Discovery Early Career Research Fellow until 2019. Her major research interests focus on materials modelling of damage, failure and fracture, and earthquake rupture dynamics. She specialises in large scale numerical simulations of nonlinear partial differential equations.

As part of her outreach work, Dr Olsen-Kettle mentors mathematics research students at Swinburne, with one notably awarded the first Australian Mathematics Society Maryam Mirzakhani Award in 2019. She also organised Swinburne’s inaugural Women in Mathematics Day seminar, showcasing doctoral students’ work. She is currently organising a 3-minute thesis competition for the annual celebration of Women in Australian Mathematical Sciences conference in October. She has also tutored refugee school students through the Queensland Program to Assist Survivors of Torture and Trauma and in the Vinnies Volunteer Refugee Tutoring and Community Support Program.

Through the CSIRO STEM Professionals in Schools program, Dr Olsen-Kettle runs a weekly 3/4 maths extension program. She is also a mentor for the AMSI ChoosesMaths and BrainSTEM programs, which supports young women to pursue mathematics studies. Dr Olsen-Kettle ran the Bebras computational challenge in 2020-21 for years 3-6.