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."
Many of the news stories on our website are about our research, and rightly so as it is an integral part of the academic life. But alongside research, academics are employed to teach, and to teach to the highest standard, providing a pipeline of graduates with the skills needed across the many sectors where they will work.
Oxford's commitment to a professional teaching body is reflected in our new Teaching Recognition Scheme. This is an Oxford-based scheme through which individuals will be able to make a claim for recognition as a Senior Fellow of the Higher Education Academy (SFHEA). In addition, those who completed the Postgraduate Certificate in Teaching and Learning in Higher Education in the first two cohorts have recently had the opportunity to go on to apply for Fellowship of the Higher Education Academy (FHEA).
Two members of the Mathematical Institute, Andrew Krause (who starts at Durham in September) and Vicky Neale, have recently received teaching accreditation through the University's Teaching Recognition Scheme, having both completed the Postgraduate Certificate in Teaching and Learning in Higher Education through the University in the last couple of years.
Andrew, a Departmental Lecturer in Applied Mathematics, has been awarded Fellowship of the Higher Education Academy showing that he "demonstrates a personal and institutional commitment to professionalism in learning and teaching in higher education" and is "able to engage with a broad understanding of effective approaches to learning and teaching support as a key contribution to high quality student learning."
Vicky, who is the Mathematical Institute's Faculty Teaching Advisor, was awarded Senior Fellowship of the Higher Education Academy for which the criteria are the same as those for Fellowship, with the addition of "successful coordination, support, supervision, management and/or mentoring of others (whether individuals and/or teams) in relation to learning and teaching."
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.
When you watch the Olympics this Summer and admire the achievements of the medalists, ponder on the unknown number of people who may have done just as well if only they'd had the chance. Of course this is true of many fields of human endeavour. Take mathematics for instance. In a world of data overload, pandemics and cyber intrusion never have we needed all the mathematical talent we can muster. Yet many people are denied the opportunity, both at school and, as crucially, at research level.
This problem is especially acute in Sub-Saharan Africa which is where Mfano Africa comes in. Mfano Africa is a mentorship platform launched in August 2020 and which helps pre-PhD mathematics students to improve the quality of their postgraduate applications. And in June 2021, it has come (virtually) to Oxford via the Mfano Africa - Oxford Mathematics Virtual Mentorship Programme. This pilot aims to encourage a small cohort of 11 competitively recruited and promising pre-PhD students, based in Sub-Saharan Africa, who hope to continue PhD study within the mathematical sciences.
However, the best person to explain the project is Geoffrey Mboya, Founder and Director of Mfano Africa. Geoffrey is a PhD student here in Oxford Mathematics and a student of St Peter's College, Oxford. Over to you Geoffrey.
Oxford mathematical biologists, past and present, featured very prominently at the annual Society for Mathematical Biology (SMB) meeting held from 13-17 June and organised remotely from the University of California, Riverside. It was the largest ever conference in the field, with over 2,500 participants and more than 1,000 talks delivered by speakers from 47 countries. The conference had an unusual format, running 24 hours a day to cater for the worldwide audience.
The breadth of topics covered showed how the subject has developed and changed over the past 10 years. Mathematical models are now being increasingly used to inform biological understanding (here the term biology is used very broadly and encompasses medicine, ecology, and epidemiology) at a level of detail not seen before.
This leads to new modelling challenges, for example in developing ways to integrate the microscale detail of biological systems to derive mathematically tractable macroscale models. This, in turn, leads to new mathematical equations that require advances in analysis techniques. In addition, there was increasing emphasis on the use of data to validate models and this brings with it novel challenges in spatial statistics, parameter estimation and identifiability. A key theme of the conference was education and equality, diversity and inclusivity.
The conference began with Kit Yates, formerly of Oxford Mathematics' Wolfson Centre for Mathematical Biology (WCMB) and now a Senior Lecturer at the University of Bath, delivering a talk featuring the work that won him the Society’s Lee Segel Prize for the best paper published in the Bulletin of Mathematical Biology. It ended with four of the prizes for best talk delivered in various sessions going to members of the WCMB.
Johannes Borgqvist was awarded a Postdoc Prize for his presentation “Symmetry methods for model-construction and analysis” and Aden Forrow won the Data-Driven Prize for his talk “Learning stochastic dynamics with measurement noise.” Duncan Martinson was awarded a Contributed Talk Prize for his presentation “Extracellular matrix remodelling by neural crest cells provides a robust signal for collective migration”, and Solveig van der Vegt won a student prize for her talk “Mathematical modelling of autoimmune myocarditis and the effects of immune checkpoint inhibitors”. In addition, Mohit Dalwadi from the Oxford Centre for Industrial and Applied Mathematics (OCIAM) won a Contributed Talk Prize for his presentation “Emergent robustness of bacterial quorum sensing in fluid flow”, and former WCMB students Linus Schumacher (now at Edinburgh) and Jody Reimer (now at Utah) also won prizes.
Congratulations to Professor Alison Etheridge FRS who has been appointed as the new Chair of the Council for the Mathematical Sciences which represents the whole breadth of the mathematical sciences in the UK, with input from the Institute of Mathematics and its Applications (IMA), the London Mathematical Society (LMS), the Royal Statistical Society (RSS), the Edinburgh Mathematical Society (EMS) and the Operational Research Society (ORS).
Mike Giles, Head of the Mathematical Institute in Oxford, said: "As Alison has a joint appointment in the Mathematical Institute and the Department of Statistics in Oxford (of which she is Head), as well as being chair of the Research Excellence Framework (REF) Mathematical Sciences panel, and serving on the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC), she is ideally qualified for this broad and important role."
Alison is Professor of Probability in Oxford, having worked at the Universities of Cambridge, Berkeley, Edinburgh and Queen Mary University London before returning to Oxford. Her interests have ranged from abstract mathematical problems to concrete applications with her recent work focused on mathematical modelling of population genetics.
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.
Oxford Mathematician Endre Süli's work 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.
Born in Yugoslavia, he was educated at the University of Belgrade and did his graduate work as a British Council Scholar at the University of Reading and at St Catherine’s College, Oxford. He received his doctorate from the University of Belgrade in 1985. Endre is a Professor of Numerical Analysis at the University of Oxford and a Fellow of Worcester College, Oxford.
Oxford Mathematics now has 29 Fellows of the Royal Society among its current and retired members: John Ball, Bryan Birch, Martin Bridson, Philip Candelas, Marcus du Sautoy, Artur Ekert, Alison Etheridge, Ian Grant, Ben Green, Roger Heath-Brown, Nigel Hitchin, Ehud Hrushovski, Ioan James, Dominic Joyce, Jon Keating, Frances Kirwan, Terry Lyons, Philip Maini, Vladimir Markovic, Jim Murray, John Ockendon, Roger Penrose, Jonathan Pila, Graeme Segal, Martin Taylor, Ulrike Tillmann, Nick Trefethen, Andrew Wiles, and Endre himself of course.