Research projects

One of the things I most like about my job is supervising students in research projects. From AMSI Vacation Scholarship students to honours students to PhD students, I enjoy collaborating with a student that is seeing a dedicated research problem for the first time, and then becoming a master of their subject.

For PhD supervision, I require that the student know me first: too often do I receive an email from someone who wants to do a PhD in, say, fluid mechanics with me; a subject I have very little idea about! I also require proof that you are capable of research at a high level. This gruelling test consists of asking the student to write a difficult proof in exquisitely written english on a result of my choosing. So if you are interested in doing a PhD with me, send me an informal chatty email (formal emails will be deleted), and the areas of my research that you are interested in.

Prospective honours students, I have outlined what I think you need to know in making an informed decision on whether you want to work under my supervision. The styles of projects can be roughly categorised as follows:

As for research areas, here is how I describe them for a student:

Group theory

I am mainly interested in finite permutation groups, but I sometimes offer a project where my curiosity has taken me beyond the finite realm. The project is likely to be an abstract investigation and be co-supervised by another member of our research group; the Centre for the Mathematics of Symmetry and Computation are world-renown for their strengths in finite group theory.


My research has mostly been in finite projective or polar geometry, generalised polygons, and related structures. Recently I have been interested in the foundations of geometry and the Bachmann school of metric geometry. I have plenty of nice problems in incidence geometry, and this would be my comfort zone in terms of supervision.

Algebraic Combinatorics

The use of association schemes has recently been very successful in the existence and non-existence questions of substructures in finite geometry. This currently a hot topic of mine that I have many side-projects on the fly. There are interesting avenues for computational investigation in this area.

Elementary number theory

First a disclaimer: I am not a number theorist, and I cannot pretend to be at the cutting edge of modern number theory. A lot of students are easily swayed by the beauty of this subject, however, the modern day number theory is quite a deep and complicated profession. The research projects I would offer under this heading would not be cutting edge research problems, only curiosities that have come up in my day-to-day research. If you would like a problem that trains you to be at the forefront of modern research in number theory, there is an excellent group at Macuqarie University and ANU that I would suggest you contact. However, if you like the “style” of mathematics of number theory, then you might also like “combinatorics” too, and we can certainly offer projects under that broad heading.

Students I have supervised

I have been enormously lucky to have supervised some remarkable students. Here is a list of the students and their projects.

Current students

Past students

PhD Students

  1. Jesse Lansdown, PhD, Designs in finite geometry, co-supervised by Gordon Royle and Alice Niemeyer (cotutelle with Aachen), 2015 – 2020
  2. Mark Ioppolo, PhD, Codes in Johnson graphs associated with quadratic forms over $\mathbb{F}_2$, co-supervised by Cheryl Praeger and Alice Devillers, 2012 – 2020.
  3. Jon Xu, PhD, Chevalley groups, Schubert varieties, and finite geometry, co-supervised by Arun Ram, 2012 – 2017.
  4. Sayeed Hassan Alavi, PhD, Triple factorisations of groups, co-supervised by Cheryl Praeger, 2008 – 2011.
  5. Frédéric Vanhove, PhD, Incidence geometry from an algebraic graph theory point of view, co-supervised by Frank De Clerck, 2007 – 2011.
  6. Geoffrey Pearce, PhD, Transitive factorisations of graphs, co-supervised by Cheryl Praeger, 2004 – 2007.

Masters/MPhil Students

  1. Saul Freedman, MPhil, p-groups related to exceptional groups of Lie type, co-supervised by Luke Morgan, 2017 – 2018.
  2. Melissa Lee, MPhil, The m-covers and m-ovoids of generalised quadrangles and related structures, co-supervised by Michael Giudici, 2015/2016.
  3. Sylvia Morris, MPhil, Symplectic translation planes, pseudo-ovals, and maximal 4-arcs, co-supervised by Michael Giudici, 2011 – 2013.
  4. Guang Rao, Masters, Symmetric translation planes of square order, 2009/2010.
  5. Cedric Raemdonck and Els Quintelier, Masters, Databanken en websites voor wiskundig onderzoek, co-supervised by Leo Storme, Michel Lavrauw, Geert Vernaeve, 2008.
  6. Frédéric Vanhove, Masters, Een studie van m-systemen en aanverwante incidentiestructuren, co-supervised by Frank De Clerck, 2006/2007.

Honours Students

  1. Jacob Smith, Non-regular 2-closed permutation groups that are not automorphism groups of digraphs, co-supervised by Michael Giudici, 2022.
  2. Darryl Teo, Honours, On intersection multiplicity of plane curves, 2021.
  3. Ann Linehan, Honours, Relationships Between Geometric Propositions which Characterise Projective Planes, co-supervised by Jesse Lansdown, 2021.
  4. Hefu Yu, The quest to classify finite flag-transitive projective planes, 2020 – 2021
  5. Dominique Douglas-Smith, Skew Projection, co-supervised by Jesse Lansdown, 2020
  6. James Evans, Generalised polygons and their symmetries, co-supervised by Emilio Pierro, 2019.
  7. Jacob Morhall, Eigenvalue bounds on cliques and cocliques, co-supervised by Gordon Royle, 2018.
  8. Timothy Harris, Abstract ovals, 2017.
  9. Calin Borceanu, Breaking symmetry in backtrack algorithms, 2016.
  10. Saul Freedman, Maximally symmetric p-groups, co-supervised by Luke Morgan, 2016.
  11. Jesse Lansdown, Metric coset geometries, co-supervised by Joanna Fawcett, 2014/2015.
  12. Melissa Lee, Relative hemisystems on the Hermitian Surface, co-supervised by Eric Swartrz, 2014.
  13. Blake Segler, Fault-tolerant quantum computation, co-supervised by Jingbo Wang, 2013.
  14. Murray Smith, A generalised clique-coclique bound, 2012.
  15. Mark Ioppolo, A classification of rational 2-tangles via coset spaces, 2011-2012.
  16. David Raithel, The 24-cell, co-supervised by Cheryl Praeger, 2011-2012.
  17. Daniel Skates, Sets of type (m,n) in projective planes, co-supervised by Gordon, 2011.
  18. Adrian Dudek, Expander graphs, co-supervised by Gordon Royle, 2010.
  19. Andrew Cannon, Graphs of the Johnson schemes, co-supervised by Cheryl Praeger, 2009 – 2010.
  20. Claire Collier, The norm of a group, co-supervised by Maska Law, 2006.
  21. Michael Pauley, Flag-transitive linear spaces and spreads of projective space, 2005/2006.
  22. Jonathan Cohen, Small base groups, large base groups and the case of the giants, co-supervised by Alice Niemeyer, 2004.
  23. Geoffrey Pearce, Products of groups and graphs, co-supervised by Cheryl Praeger, 2003.