When did you know it was Maths? - Philip

Philip talking

The date: 1970s. The location: Rainey Endowed School, Magherafelt, Northern Ireland. The action: a mathematics lesson. The talent: a young Philip Maini. The story so far: a long explanation of an oscillating pendulum...

The latest in our series ' When did you know it was Maths', stories of mathematical epiphanies and gradual dawns from our students and researchers as they describe how they came to be mathematicians. You can watch more in the series via our YouTube Channel along with over 80 student lectures and many public lectures.



Please contact us with feedback and comments about this page. Created on 29 Jul 2023 - 20:34.

When did you know it was Maths? - Kate Wenqi

Still from video

"Don't it always seem to go, that you don't know what you got 'til it's gone."

Not every mathematical epiphany, the moment you decide you love maths, happens when you are young. In our second 'When did you know it was Maths' film, Kate Wenqi describes leaving maths for a career in finance, only to return when the stress was becoming too much.

'When did you know it was Maths?' is our summer series of short films where our Oxford Mathematicians, from students to professors, describe the moment when they knew they wanted to pursue mathematics. If there was such a moment. For some it was a slower burn.

You can watch further episodes on our YouTube Channel

With apologies to Joni Mitchell from whose song 'Big Yellow Taxi' the quote comes.



Please contact us with feedback and comments about this page. Created on 23 Jul 2023 - 16:17.

When did you know it was Maths? - Alicia

Image of Alicia

A mathematical epiphany. Introducing our new summer series: 'When did you know it was Maths?', starring Oxford Mathematicians and a simple plot: students, researchers and professors reveal the moment when they knew that it was maths for them.

Episode 1: Alicia. 

You can watch further episodes on our YouTube Channel

Of course, an epiphany is not always the case. For some people it is a slow dawning. some might not even be sure. And, as one member of Oxford Mathematics pointed out, you may not even consider yourself a mathematician. In his case, he said, he saw himself not as a mathematician, but as a scientist.

Please contact us with feedback and comments about this page. Created on 16 Jul 2023 - 17:12.

Six Oxford Mathematicians receive Frontiers of Science Awards

Photo: clockwise from top left; Nick, Jonathan, Graeme, Yuki, Dawid, James

Six Oxford Mathematicians and their collaborators have been awarded Frontiers of Science Awards for their respective research papers at the inaugural International Congress of Basic Science Conference which is taking place in Beijing, China, this week.  

For the 2023 selection, scientific works in both basic and applied research were chosen in 34 areas of the three basic science fields (mathematics, theoretical physics, and theoretical computer and information sciences).  Each winning paper receives a prize of $25,000. The full list of winners is here


Category: Mathematical Logic, Foundations and Category Theory

Paper and Oxford author: Ax-Schanuel for Shimura varieties - Jonathan Pila


Number Theory

On the Duffin-Schaeffer conjecture - James Maynard


Algebraic and Geometric Topology

On property (T) for Aut(Fn) and SLn(Z) - Dawid Kielak


Numerical Analysis and Scientific Computation

The AAA Algorithm for Rational Approximation - Yuji Nakatsukasa and Nick Trefethen 


Lie Theory and Representation Theory

Wick rotation and the positivity of energy in quantum field theory - Graeme Segal


Photo: clockwise from top left; Nick, Jonathan, Graeme, James, Dawid, Yuji

Please contact us with feedback and comments about this page. Created on 16 Jul 2023 - 10:10.

Envisioning Imagination

Banner for event

Imagination is the creative force for artists. But what about mathematicians and scientists? What part does imagination play in their work? What do the artist and the scientist have in common? And how do each envision things that will never be seen?

In this panel discussion two scientists and one artist, all leaders in their field, will provide an answer. They have more in common than you would think.

Nobel-prize winning scientist Roger Penrose is Emeritus Rouse Ball Professor in Oxford. Carlo Rovelli is a Professor in the Centre de Physique Théorique de Luminy of Aix-Marseille Université and the author of several popular-science books including 'Seven Brief Lesson on Physics'. Conrad Shawcross is an artist specialising in mechanical sculptures based on philosophical and scientific ideas. His exhibition, 'Cascading Principles' is currently showing in the Mathematical Institute.

The discussion will be chaired by curator and writer Fatos Ustek, curator of the 'Cascading Principles' exhibition.

There will be an opportunity to view the exhibition from 4pm on the day of the lecture.

5pm, Thursday 27 July 2023, Mathematical Institute, Oxford (and on our YouTube Channel three weeks later)

Please email @email to register.

The Oxford Mathematics Public Lectures and the Conrad Shawcross Exhibition are generously supported by XTX Markets.

Please contact us with feedback and comments about this page. Created on 12 Jul 2023 - 09:27.

LMS Prizes for Frances Kirwan and András Juhász

Frances and Andras

Oxford Mathematicians Frances Kirwan and András Juhász have been awarded London Mathematical Society Prizes for 2023. Frances is awarded the Pólya prize, while András receives the Whitehead Prize.

Frances receives her award for "her many outstanding and influential results in geometry and for her career-long service to the mathematical community" where she has been mentor and guide to many students and colleagues. András receives the Whitehead Prize for "his fundamental work in low-dimensional topology, in particular for applying Heegaard Floer homology to obtain a better understanding of knots, 3-manifolds, and 4-manifolds."

Frqnces Kirwan is Savilian Professor of Geometry in Oxford and a Fellow of New College. She specialises in 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. She recently received a 2023 L'Oréal-UNESCO for Women in Science International Award. 

András is a Fellow of Keble College. He specialises in low-dimensional topology and knot theory from the point of view of invariants. Recently, in collaboration with DeepMind, he explored how machine learning might be used to advance pure mathematics, specifically in knot theory.

Please contact us with feedback and comments about this page. Created on 01 Jul 2023 - 20:58.

It was 30 years ago today

Image of Andrew

30 years ago today Andrew Wiles told an excited audience at the Isaac Newton Institute in Cambridge that he had proved Fermat's Last Theorem, arguably the greatest puzzle in mathematics, a 300 year-old mystery.

And so began a story of wonder at the achievement, followed by despair at the discovery of an error, the elation of a final proof, a TV documentary, a biography, a musical, prizes galore and the naming of a building where, 30 years later, in the Andrew Wiles Building in Oxford, Andrew Wiles continues his research.

And all because of Maths.

Our friends at the Isaac Newton Institute dropped by the Andrew Wiles Building last month to make a short video and podcast to celebrate.

Please contact us with feedback and comments about this page. Created on 23 Jun 2023 - 10:00.


Image of the tile

We will be celebrating the discovery of 'The Hat', a tile which tiles only aperiodically, on the 20th and 21st July here in the Mathematical Institute, Oxford. Come and join us!

The theory of tilings in the plane touches on diverse areas of mathematics, physics and beyond. Aperiodic sets of tiles, such as the famous Penrose tiling that you see as you walk into the Mathematical Institute, admit tilings of the plane without any translational symmetry.

The Penrose tiling is made of two elementary shapes, or tiles, and mathematicians have long wondered about the existence of a single tile that could tile the plane aperiodically. Earlier this year such a shape was discovered: the hat! This hat turned out to be the first of a whole family, and is being celebrated across a two-day meeting in Oxford.

Confirmed speakers include Roger Penrose (Oxford), Rachel Greenfeld (Institute for Advanced Study), Jarkko Kari (Turku), Natalie Priebe-Frank (Vassar), Lorenzo Sadun (UT Austin), Marjorie Senechal (Smith College), and the authors of The Hat pre-print. There will be space for a small number of contributed talks.

The first day will consist of talks accessible to the public, ending in a panel discussion (register separately) between the speakers, chaired by Dr Henna Koivusalo (Bristol). The second day will be colloquium-style talks aimed at the broadest possible audience of mathematicians and physicists. There will also be exhibits by a number of invited artists, and activities related to aperiodic tilings.

The event is free and open to the public. There will be funding available to cover the travel and accommodation costs of PhD students, Postdocs, and Early Career Researchers, courtesy of the Institute of Physics' Theory of Condensed Matter group and the Heilbronn Institute for Mathematical Research.

To register please visit the dedicated website

For more information, please contact the organisers: Felix Flicker (@email), Nick Jones (@email), Henna Koivusalo (@email), and Mike Whittaker (@email).

Please contact us with feedback and comments about this page. Created on 15 Jun 2023 - 22:05.

A world from a sheet of paper

A multi-folded sheet of paper

Starting from just a sheet of paper, by folding, stacking, crumpling, sometimes tearing, in this Oxford Mathematics Public Lecture, Tadashi Tokieda explores a diversity of phenomena, from magic tricks and geometry through elasticity and the traditional Japanese art of origami to medical devices and an ‘h-principle’.

Much of the show consists of table-top demonstrations, which you can try later with friends and family.

So, take a sheet of paper. . .

Tadashi Tokieda is a professor of mathematics at Stanford. He grew up as a painter in Japan, became a classical philologist (not to be confused with philosopher) in France and, having earned a PhD in pure mathematics from Princeton, has been an applied mathematician in England and the US; all in all, he has lived in eight countries so far. Tadashi is very active in mathematical outreach, notably with the African Institute for Mathematical Sciences.

The Oxford Mathematics Public Lectures are generously supported by XTX Markets.

Please contact us with feedback and comments about this page. Created on 14 Jun 2023 - 18:39.

Exams, revision and things

Patrick Farrell lecturing

Like so many people around the world, our Oxford Mathematics students are in the middle of the exam season.

Our fourth year students started at the end of May and finish tomorrow, third year students finish a week later while first and second students are preparing for their exams which start soon and finish on 23 June.

So what will they be revising? Well, for first years, definitely Patrick Farrell's 'Constructive Mathematics' course which focusses on algorithms. If you want to get a flavour of what it is about you can watch the lecture below. It is one of over 80 student lectures on our YouTube Channel.

Best wishes to everyone taking exams, wherever you are. They will soon be over.

Please contact us with feedback and comments about this page. Created on 08 Jun 2023 - 21:16.