Friday, 1 October 2021

Oxford Undergraduate Ellen Flower wins British Society for the History of Mathematics Essay Prize

Congratulations to Oxford Mathematics and Worcester College undergraduate Ellen who was a joint winner of the British Society for the History of Mathematics Undergraduate Essay Prize for her essay 'The "analysis" of a century: Influences on the etymological development of the word "analysis" in a mathematical context to 1750'.

Ellen says of her work: "I took the History of Maths module as I have always enjoyed hearing about how people and societies have thought about the concepts that we take for granted. I found that learning and exploring the original mathematical texts helped me to contextualise my place as an undergraduate in the overall mathematical story!

"My essay, which was adapted from the essay I submitted for my final coursework, explores the evolving meaning of the word ‘analysis’ in a mathematical context from Oughtred to Euler. It delves into themes including the geometric-analytic distinction and how the nature of mathematical texts, as well as their contents, has helped mathematical ideas to stick."

Ellen completed her degree this summer. Below, you can watch a lecture from the History of Mathematics course she took, one of the many undergraduate lectures we are making available to give an insight in to mathematical life in Oxford.

Tuesday, 24 August 2021

Frances Kirwan awarded the Royal Society's Sylvester Medal for 2021

Oxford Mathematician Frances Kirwan has been awarded the Sylvester Medal 2021 "for her research on quotients in algebraic geometry, including links with symplectic geometry and topology, which has had many applications."

The Sylvester Medal is awarded annually for an outstanding researcher in the field of mathematics. The award was created in memory of the mathematician James Joseph Sylvester who was Savilian Professor of Geometry at the University of Oxford in the 1880s, a post now held by Frances Kirwan (the Savilian celebrated its 400th anniversary in 2019). The Sylvester medal was first awarded in 1901. It is of bronze and is accompanied by a gift of £2,000.

Frances's specialisation is algebraic and symplectic geometry, notably moduli spaces in algebraic geometry, geometric invariant theory (GIT), and the link between GIT and moment maps in symplectic geometry.

Frances has received many honours including being elected a Fellow of the Royal Society in 2001 (only the third female mathematician to attain this honour), and President of the London Mathematical Society from 2003-2005. She was made a Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire in 2014.

On receiving the award Frances said: "I am honoured to receive this award, especially as it is named after one of my predecessors as Savilian Professor, James Joseph Sylvester, whose work over a hundred years ago on what is today called invariant theory laid the foundations for my own work on geometric invariant theory."

Friday, 2 July 2021

Oxford Mathematicians awarded LMS Prizes

Four Oxford Mathematicians have been awarded 2021 London Mathematical Society (LMS) Prizes. Ehud Hrushovski is awarded a Pólya Prize, Endre Süli is awarded the Naylor Prize and Lectureship, and Patrick Farrell and Stuart White receive Whitehead Prizes.

Udi Hrushovski's work is concerned with mapping the interactions and interpretations among different mathematical worlds. Endre's research is concerned with the analysis of numerical algorithms for the approximate solution of partial differential equations and the mathematical analysis of nonlinear partial differential equations in continuum mechanics. Patrick works on the numerical solution of partial differential equations, while Stuart's research focuses on operator algebras, a branch of functional analysis with connections to many other branches of pure mathematics.

Find out more about all the prize winners.

Monday, 10 May 2021

Mathematical Institute Athena Swan Silver Award renewed

The Athena Swan Charter is a framework which is used across the globe to support and transform gender equality within higher education (HE) and research. 

In 2013 the Mathematical Institute received an Athena Swan Bronze Award for its work in addressing the issue of gender equality in its subject and working environment and, as a result of our work over the next four years, in 2017 we received the Silver Award. This year that Silver has been renewed and reflects the work put in as we strive for gender equality in a subject that, while predominantly still male, is becoming more balanced.

What have we done? 

- We have Increased gender diversity across most student/staff groups, with female postgraduate numbers almost doubling. Given that these are the faculty of the future, In Oxford and elsewhere, this is very encouraging. We will continue to work on providing an environment that encourages those students to continue to progress in their careers.

- We are pleased with the ongoing success of our recent, prestigious Hooke and Titchmarsh Postdoctoral Research Fellowships, which attract a high number of women and provide an exceptional springboard into an independent academic career. 

- We continue to work hard to engage and encourage young school-age female mathematicians. It All Adds Up, where we bring female school pupils together to meet other keen young mathematicians, is just one successful example. We are approaching 30% female undergraduate intake, in line with the number of female high-school students studying Further Maths at 'A' Level.

Charters such as Athena Swan work best when they make you think about what you do rather than being an end in themselves. That has been perhaps the most successful part of Athena Swan for us. We are integrating it into our strategic priorities and intertwining it with, for example, our Race Equality action plan.. Mathematics is a subject that had a lot of ground make up, but we and the wider mathematical world are making meaningful progress.

Read more about our plans here.


Monday, 3 May 2021

Zachary Chase shares Danny Lewin Best Student Paper Award 2021 from SIGACT

There are plenty of awards and prizes for senior mathematicians and scientists. But just as important, and maybe more so, are the awards for those just starting out.

SIGACT (Special Interest Group on Algorithms and Computation Theory) is an international organisation that fosters and promotes the discovery and dissemination of high quality research in theoretical computer science. The Danny Lewin Best Student Paper award is presented by SIGACT each year at the ACM Symposium on Theory of Computing.

Oxford DPhil Mathematician Zachary's winning paper is entitled “Separating Words and Trace Reconstruction.” A deterministic finite automaton is one of the most basic computational models in theoretical computer science. Telling two strings apart is one of the most basic computational tasks. In this paper, progress is made on an old problem of how efficiently one can tell two strings apart with a deterministic finite automaton. The proof methods surprisingly involve complex analysis and connections to other fundamental problems.

The 2021 SIGACT Symposium will take place online from 21-25 June.

Monday, 8 March 2021

Georgia Brennan wins Silver Medal at STEM for Britain 2021

Oxford Mathematician Georgia Brennan has won a silver medal in the Mathematical Sciences category at STEM for Britain 2021 for her poster (extract in the image) on 'Mathematically Modelling Clearance in Alzheimer’s Disease: A Mathematical Drug Trial for the UK’s Protein Pandemic'.

STEM for Britain 2021 is a major scientific poster competition and exhibition which has been held in Parliament since 1997 (online this year), and is organised by the Parliamentary & Scientific Committee. Its aim is to give members of both Houses of Parliament an insight into the outstanding research work being undertaken in UK universities by early-career researchers.

Monday, 19 October 2020

Heather Harrington wins Leverhulme Prize

Oxford Mathematician Heather Harrington has won one of this year's prestigious Philip Leverhulme Prizes. The award recognises the achievement of outstanding researchers whose work has already attracted international recognition and whose future career is exceptionally promising.

Heather certainly fits that bill. She has already won the Whitehead and Adams prizes for her work which covers a range of topics in applied mathematics, including algebraic systems biology, inverse problems, computational biology, and information processing in biological and chemical systems. Heather is the Co-Director of the Centre for Topological Data Analysis in Oxford.

Heather said of the award: I'm really humbled and honoured to have received this prize. My research is only possible through extensive collaborative networks, and I'm very grateful to my collaborators. I am hoping the prize funds can go towards exploring new research ideas as well as supporting students interested in research careers at the interface between pure and applied mathematics.

Each of the 30 Prize Winners receives £100,000 which can be used over two or three years to advance their research.

Tuesday, 6 October 2020

Roger Penrose joint winner of the 2020 Nobel Prize for Physics

The 2020 Nobel Prize for Physics has been awarded to Roger Penrose, Reinhard Genzel and Andrea Ghez for their work on black holes. Oxford Mathematician Penrose is cited “for the discovery that black hole formation is a robust prediction of the general theory of relativity.”

Mike Giles, Head of the Mathematical Institute in Oxford, said "We are absolutely delighted for Roger - it is a wonderful recognition of his ground-breaking contributions to mathematical physics."

Roger himself said: "It is a huge honour to receive this Prize. In 1964 the existence of Black Holes was not properly appreciated. Since then they have become of increased importance in our understanding of the Universe and I believe this could increase in unexpected ways in the future."

Sir Roger Penrose is famous for his many contributions to the mathematical physics of general relativity and cosmology. In 1965 with his ground-breaking paper "Gravitational Collapse and Space-Time Singularities" he predicted the existence of black holes, astronomical objects so dense that the geometry of space-time becomes singular inside them and not even light can escape their gravitational attraction. This remains, to this day, one of the most astonishing consequences of Einstein's theory of General Relativity, and we now see that they do exist in nature.

Roger also pioneered the development of the mathematical theory that describes the structure of space-time and, together with Stephen Hawking, he developed singularity theorems that form the basis of the modern theory of black holes.  In parallel, he developed twistor theory as an approach to the quantization of space-time and gravity. It has since become a powerful tool across mathematics and has more recently impacted on physics in the form of 'twistor-string theory' as a tool for calculating scattering amplitudes for collider experiments. It is still actively pursued as an approach to quantum gravity.

He has made many other scientific contributions that, despite their recreational origin, have nevertheless had Nobel prize winning impact.  His quasi-periodic tilings have a crystallographically forbidden 5-fold symmetry. These have not only inspired much mathematical research, but were subsequently discovered by Schechtman in 1984 to be realised in quasi-crystals that can be made in the laboratory. Roger Penrose, together with his father, was the originator of Escher's famous and iconic impossible pictures. His theory of spin networks in his Adam's prize essay has become one of the pillars of 'loop quantum gravity' and now has a worldwide following. Amongst his most cited papers is the theory of generalised inverses of matrices that have applications from statistics through to engineering.

Another particularly influential strand has been his work on the foundations of quantum mechanics, both on realistic models of wave function collapse, and on time asymmetry therein and its relation to that in thermodynamics and in the big bang versus gravitational collapse. His early work in the ‘70s and ‘80s laid the foundations of what is now a worldwide endeavour.

Last, but not least, his books on popular science have provided a benchmark for how to engage with the layperson without trivialising the science.

Roger Penrose is Emeritus Rouse Ball Professor of Mathematics and a fellow of Wadham College in Oxford

Below are pictures from the Swedish Embassy in London where Roger was presented with his Nobel medal and diploma by the Swedish Ambassador on 8 December 2020.

In 2018 Roger Penrose gave an Oxford Mathematics Public Lecture where he outlined his latest thinking on Cosmology and in an interview with Hannah Fry talked about his career and how he wasn't always so far ahead of the game, especially when it came to arithmetic. The video is below the pictures.


Wednesday, 12 August 2020

Richard Wade and Erik Panzer awarded Royal Society University Research Fellowships

Oxford Mathematicians Richard Wade and Erik Panzer have been awarded Royal Society University Research Fellowships for 2020. The Research Fellowship scheme was established to identify outstanding early career scientists who have the potential to become leaders in their chosen fields and provide them with the opportunity to build an independent research career.

Ric's main research area is geometric group theory, particularly the study of free groups and their automorphisms. He's interested in invariants of groups coming from topology (like cohomology) and rigidity problems. He also looks at trees and their deformation spaces.

Erik's research interests cover the mathematics of perturbative quantum (field) theory, in particular Feynman integrals, deformation quantization and resummation.


Friday, 7 August 2020

James Maynard elected to Academia Europaea

Oxford Mathematicians James Maynard has been elected to Academia Europaea. He joins 13 other Oxford Mathematicians in the Academy which boasts 4000 members and 70 Nobel laureates. The Academy seeks the advancement and propagation of excellence in scholarship in the humanities, law, the economic, social, and political sciences, mathematics, medicine, and all branches of natural and technological sciences anywhere in the world for the public benefit and for the advancement of the education of the public of all ages in the aforesaid subjects in Europe.

Still only 33, James Maynard is one of the brightest stars in world mathematics at the moment, having made dramatic advances in analytic number theory in recent years. A recent interview in Quanta Magazine delves in to James's work and his thinking.