By Nicholas Higham
The SIAM United Kingdom and Republic of Ireland (UKIE) Section is celebrating its 20th year. Every January the section holds a one-day annual meeting. Since the 1997 inaugural meeting in Manchester, it has gone from strength to strength and membership has more than tripled to 600 (all SIAM members residing in the UK or Ireland are automatically members of the section).
The 20th meeting was hosted by the Department of Applied Mathematics and Theoretical Physics (DAMTP) at the University of Cambridge on January 7. The event was organised by section officers Des Higham (University of Strathclyde, President), Jennifer Scott (Rutherford Appleton Laboratory, Vice President), Angela Mihai (Cardiff University, Secretary/Treasurer) and local organiser Arieh Iserles (Cambridge). Around 80 people attended, about half of whom were students. As befits an anniversary, the event featured a stellar programme with invited talks from both senior and early career researchers, as well as student posters.
2014 Fields Medalist Martin Hairer (University of Warwick) gave the opening talk. Hairer described how to treat ill-posed stochastic partial differential equations (PDEs) arising in phase transition problems, emphasizing connections between stochastic analysis and numerical methods. Computer animations beautifully illustrated his talk, which was a superb example of how to communicate deep ideas with a minimum of equations.
Simon Tavaré, who is Director of the Cancer Research UK Cambridge Institute and holds appointments in the Department of Oncology and DAMTP at Cambridge, gave a talk entitled “How Useful is Mathematical Modelling in Cancer Research?” Tavaré, who began a two-year term as president of the London Mathematical Society in November 2015, focused on mutations in DNA and what they reveal about cancer evolution. Tavaré explained the role of quantitative methods in understanding how tumours evolve, giving particular emphasis to approximate Bayesian computation. He also offered mathematical scientists advice on where to publish, arguing that collaborative research has the best chance of being noticed by cancer specialists when published in cancer journals.
The UKIE section has been proud to host SIAM presidents at several previous meetings, and did so once again. In her talk, “Models of Transiently Networked Fluids: Wormlike Micelles,” SIAM President Pam Cook (University of Delaware) discussed complex fluids that exhibit transiently networked structures at the mesoscale. She described experiments and mathematical models at the macroscale (coupled nonlinear reaction-diffusion equations) and the mesoscale (stochastic differential equations), with motivational examples from the cosmetics, food, and manufacturing industries.
In a lecture sponsored by the UK’s Institute of Mathematics and its Applications, Barbara Wohlmuth (Technische Universität München) spoke about reducing computational complexity in PDE simulations. Wohlmuth described dimension reduction techniques with the modelling of noise transmission through floors and walls in buildings as one application; the importance of this will be clear to anyone who lives in an apartment with noisy neighbours.
The meeting also featured shorter talks by early career speakers: Jennifer Pestana (Strathclyde) on “Symmetrizing Toeplitz Matrices and Consequences for Solving Linear Systems,” Sarah Mitchell (University of Limerick) on “Numerical Challenges Facing an Application of Stefan Problems: Continuous Casting of Metals,” and Jasmina Lazic (MathWorks, UK) on “MATLAB and the Mathematics of Our Lives: from Stacking Shelves in Supermarkets to Personalising Car Insurance Premiums.”
In the business meeting, Mihai reported on the section’s activities over the last year, which included sponsoring speakers and student attendees at relevant meetings in the UK and Ireland. The UKIE section works with the 11 SIAM student chapters in its area, all of which had been invited to send a representative to the section meeting.
Attendees were also invited to a dinner at Magdalene College. The intimate, candlelit setting of The Parlour (at one time the Master’s drawing room) was perfect for post-session discussions.
The 2016 meeting realized the hope expressed by the SIAM News report of the first-ever UKIE meeting held in 1997: “May it be the first of many SIAM conferences to take place in the UK or the Republic of Ireland.” We look forward to many more years of SIAM activities in the UK.