PROMYS Europe Connect 2021 saw a group of enthusiastic and high-achieving young mathematicians gather (online) in July and August for a four-week intensive summer programme designed to give them the experience of thinking deeply about mathematics in a community of similarly mathematically excited students and staff. In other circumstances, PROMYS Europe is a six-week residential programme in Oxford, organised by a partnership of PROMYS (Boston), Wadham College and the Mathematical Institute at the University of Oxford, and the Clay Mathematics Institute. Circumstances being what they were, the 2021 programme, PROMYS Europe Connect, was tailored for an online format, in which we sought to capture as much as possible of the essence of the traditional event.
PROMYS Europe Connect 2021 was attended by 28 students, 2 of whom were returning students who first took part in PROMYS Europe in 2019, and 9 undergraduate counsellors. Participants represented Austria, Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Germany, Hungary, Norway, Romania, Serbia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, the UK and Ukraine. Places are offered to students on the basis of their academic potential as demonstrated in their application; we waive some or all of the fee (which is already heavily subsidised) for students who would otherwise be unable to participate. The programme is funded and resourced by the PROMYS Europe partnership, and by further financial support from alumni of the University of Oxford and Wadham College, and from the Heilbronn Institute for Mathematical Research.
This year, as usual, the core of the programme was a Number Theory course, taught by Glenn Stevens (Boston University, founding Director of PROMYS) and Henry Cohn (Microsoft Research, MIT). Students are encouraged to discover as much as possible for themselves, through their work on daily problem sets and through careful individual mentoring by their counsellor.
Alongside this was a Group Theory course with a similar philosophy, taught by Vicky Neale (Oxford), primarily aimed at the returning students, but also well attended by the first years. The returning students also worked on a research project on elliptic curves. Alongside their own mathematical seminars on category theory and analytic number theory, the counsellors organised social activities to help the students get to know each other and to build the sense of the community that is so important to the programme. These were complemented by guest lectures, exposing students to a range of current mathematical research. Plans are already under way for summer 2022, when we expect to return to the in-person format.
Here’s what participants said after PROMYS Europe Connect 2021:
Thank you for organizing all this, I feel like I almost cannot grasp the impact that this programme has had on my life in these three years of participation. [Returning student]
The online experience was actually much more engaging than I had expected. [Student]
PROMYS Europe Connect has left me with so many fantastic memories. I have truly felt like I am part of an amazing community of mathematicians who are all so passionate about what they do. [Counsellor]
We can't interview all our undergraduate applicants in the time available, so to help us decide who to shortlist, we set the Oxford Mathematics Admissions Test (MAT) which all applicants for Maths, Computer Science, or joint honours courses must take.
Yesterday, 3 November, 5000 aspiring students from all around the world took the MAT for entrance to Oxford (and other universities). Here, courtesy of our admissions guru, James Munro, are the answers in 10 minutes. And remember, as they say before the football results on TV, if you don't want to know the answers, look away now.
James will also host a longer debrief of MAT 2021 in his weekly online podcast next week (11 November). Everyone is welcome.
As part of the University of Oxford’s Black Academic Futures Scholarships, the Mathematical Institute and Pembroke College are delighted to invite talented UK Black or Mixed-Black students to apply for one fully funded postgraduate scholarship in 2022-2023 on one of the courses below:
DPhil in Mathematics or Centre for Doctoral Training in Mathematics of Random Systems.
So, the first term at university. And, more specifically, the first mathematical term at Oxford. What's in store? Well, our students' mathematical experience in their first term (and beyond) comprises two parts: lectures and tutorials. How do they work?
Lectures cover eight courses in the first term. These range from subjects such as Complex Numbers and Linear Algebra to an Introductory Calculus course. You can now watch an example, a Geometry lecture on Isometries, below. A full list of publicly available lectures can be found on our YouTube Channel.
Alongside lectures are tutorials where students, usually in pairs, meet with their tutor to go through the relevant course problem sheets. These tutorials provide the opportunity to spend time thinking and talking about the mathematics. You can watch an example - filmed in Trinity College in 2019 - below the lecture.
And of course there is the pleasure of meeting 200 other first term mathematicians like yourself and working with them on problems and sharing experience. Some of our first year students are sharing those experiences on our Twitter, Facebook and Instagram pages over the coming weeks.
"Historically, mathematics has been a largely male-dominated field, with women in mathematical academia consistently being underrepresented. A report in 2013 by the London Mathematical Society shows some progress has been made in increasing the participation of women in recent times, with the proportion of women pursuing an undergraduate degree in mathematics in the UK standing at around 42%.
However, when we look at the percentage undertaking a PhD this number drops to 19% and as we progress through the career stages of an academic, eventually we reach the disturbing statistic that only 6% of maths professors in the UK are women. This demonstrates what is sometimes referred to as a ‘leaky pipeline’ – one metaphor to describe the way in which women leave academia at a higher rate than men at every stage of a research career. The current female professors that make up that six percent have spent the last few decades working as mathematicians in a profession where they are largely outnumbered.
I wanted to speak to some women who chose to pursue a career in academia at a time when female mathematicians were few and far between, asking them to tell their stories, understand the challenges they have overcome and highlight the successes they have achieved. The common link between these women? They all started their journey into academia at Oxford in the 1980s, by undertaking a DPhil here at the Mathematical Institute.
The stories that follow come from interviews conducted with the three women: Sarah Rees, Frances Kirwan and Helen Byrne. Sarah Rees is a professor of pure mathematics at Newcastle, the first woman to be appointed to a permanent position in Newcastle’s Faculty of Science. Frances Kirwan is the Savilian Professor of Geometry at the Mathematical Institute here in Oxford, the first woman to hold this position since its creation in 1619. Helen Byrne is a professor of mathematical biology here at Oxford and was the recipient of the 2019 Society for Mathematical Biology Leah Edelstein-Keshet Prize. These women have gone on to have varied and successful careers as academics, providing real insight and new perspectives into their respective fields of mathematics, as well as helping the next generations of women succeed in maths.
The result of these interviews is this piece, describing their contrasting experiences and exploring issues such as: feeling and being treated differently; the importance of having inspiring figures and a strong community around you; the isolating world of research; the challenge of being a mother and a mathematician; what these women view as their biggest successes in life; and much more. The full piece can be found here."
Maddy Underwood is an undergraduate at Worcester College. This article, and the longer piece, is the fruit of her Student Summer Research Project here in Oxford under the guidance of Mate Szabo. The Summer Research Projects aim to give our undergraduates a taste of the world of mathematical research.
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.
Oxford Mathematicians Coralia Cartis, Samuel Cohen, Renaud Lambiotte and Terry Lyons have been made Fellows of the Alan Turing Institute, the UK’s national institute for data science and AI.
The Institute’s research spans theoretical foundations of data science and AI, methodological challenges, ethics and societal issues, and applications to a broad range of areas. Turing Fellows are established scholars with proven research excellence in data science, artificial intelligence, or a related field.
Coralia Cartis is Associate Professor in Numerical Optimization and a fellow of Balliol College. Samuel Cohen is an Associate Professor in the Mathematical Institute, a fellow of New College and the theme lead for Machine Learning in Finance at the Alan Turing Institute. Renaud Lambiotte is Professor of Networks and Nonlinear Systems and a fellow of Somerville College; and Terry Lyons is Wallis Professor of Mathematics in Oxford and a fellow of St Anne's College.
A total of 33 Oxford academics from across the mathematical, medical, social, physical and life sciences have been made fellows of the Institute in this round.
Oxford Mathematician Álvaro Cartea has been appointed as the new Director of the Oxford-Man Institute of Quantitative Finance (OMI), a world-leading academic research institute at the University of Oxford that specialises in machine learning and data analytics within quantitative finance.
The University of Oxford and Man Group have worked in collaboration since 2007 when Man Group provided cornerstone funding for the OMI and simultaneously opened its co-located commercial research laboratory. Together, the OMI and Man Group’s lab have provided new educational and commercial employment opportunities for quantitative finance researchers, developing and implementing cutting-edge advances in machine learning within systematic investment management.
Alvaro brings significant expertise in algorithmic trading, mathematical finance, financial economics, asset pricing and energy markets to the leadership role. He is currently Professor of Mathematical Finance in Oxford, and a member of the Mathematical and Computational Finance Group. Álvaro was previously Reader in Mathematical Finance at University College London.
Oxford Mathematician James Newton has been awarded a UKRI (UK Research and Innovation) Future Leaders Fellowship. The scheme supports talented people in universities, businesses, and other research and innovation environments and enables universities and businesses to develop their most talented early career researchers and innovators or to attract new people to their organisations, including from overseas.
James Newton's research interests are in number theory and its interactions with algebra and geometry. His work is focused on arithmetic aspects of the Langlands programme, Galois representations and automorphic forms. James received his PhD from Imperial College London and has done postdoctoral work at the University of Cambridge and Imperial College London, followed by a lectureship at King’s College London. He has recently taken up the position of Associate Professor of Number Theory at the University of Oxford and Tutorial Fellow at Merton College, Oxford.
James said of his award:
"I am delighted to receive a UKRI Future Leaders Fellowship. This will enable me to lead a research programme investigating fundamental, fascinating problems in mathematics, in the inspirational environment of the Mathematical Institute at Oxford."
The Mathematical Institute, Department of Computer Science and the Department of Statistics at the University of Oxford are consistently ranked amongst the very best mathematical sciences and computer science departments in the world, for both teaching and research. We are committed to attracting the world’s most talented students and working with them, to help them maximise their potential, regardless of race, gender, religion or background.
As part of the University of Oxford’s Black Academic Futures Scholarships we are delighted to invite talented UK Black or Mixed-Black students to apply for four fully funded postgraduate scholarships in 2022-2023 on one of the courses below:
MSc in Mathematical Sciences
MSc in Statistical Sciences
MSc in Advanced Computer Science
MSc in Mathematical Modelling and Scientific Computing
MSc in Mathematics and the Foundations of Computer Science
MSc in Mathematics and Theoretical Physics
MSc in Mathematical and Computational Finance
The scholarships cover all tuition fees and provide a grant for living expenses at UKRI rates (£15,609 p.a. in 2021-22). Awards are made for the duration of the period of fee liability for the course to Black or Mixed-Black students who are ordinary residents in the UK.
Oxford University is delighted to be working with Jane Street to present this new scholarship programme to support currently underrepresented groups to pursue their studies at Oxford. Jane Street is a long term partner of the University providing internships and employment opportunities to alumni of the Mathematics, Statistics and Computer Sciences programmes. Jane Street shares the University’s commitment to diversify the Mathematical and Computer Science ecosystems and Oxford University is grateful for Jane Street’s financial support which has made these scholarships possible.