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2024 SIAM Block Community Lecture Presented by Dr. Caoimhe Rooney

Dr. Caoimhe Rooney, Flight Dynamics Engineer for Astroscale, will deliver the 2024 I. E. Block Community Lecture. She will be presenting at the SIAM Annual Meeting (AN24), which will be held July 8-12, 2024, in Spokane, Washington, with an online component to follow July 18-20, 2024. The lecture is open to the public and is named in honor of I. Edward Block, a co-founder of SIAM and its first managing director. It is intended to encourage public appreciation of the excitement and vitality of science. AN24 registrants who are not in Spokane to attend this lecture in person will be able to watch the recording as part of the AN24 online component, happening July 18-20, 2024. The talk will be livestreamed and posted to SIAM's YouTube following the event. More information on how to watch the livestream will become available at a later date.

Dr. Rooney will deliver her talk titled Go Boldly Where No Math Has Gone Before at 6:15 p.m. on July 10, 2024. The role of mathematics in the world’s greatest discoveries and inventions is often overlooked or unappreciated by the general public. What we remember about math in school might amount to prime numbers or finding the length of hypotenuse, both of which may appear to have no relevance to our everyday lives. Dr. Rooney will bring you on a journey of mathematical progress and share with you the reasons she believes that math is important, exciting, and innovative. She will discuss and celebrate the multitude of ways that applied mathematics has helped solve the world’s greatest challenges and introduce you to some of the mathematicians who have championed these groundbreaking innovations. She will continue the discussion as it relates to space exploration, describing her role as a mathematician pioneering the future of space sustainability. 

Equipped with an undergraduate degree in pure mathematics from Trinity College Dublin and a DPhil in applied mathematics from the University of Oxford, Dr. Rooney began her career as a Research Scientist at NASA. Her research focused on applying mathematical modeling techniques to study exoplanets' electromagnetic spectra, aiming to understand their composition and potential for life. She then joined Astroscale, motivated by a passion for ensuring the accessibility of space for future exploration, and works on the design, development, and operation of in-orbit servicer spacecrafts to remove space debris. Learn more about Dr. Rooney.

Dr. Rooney was honored on the Forbes 30 Under 30 Europe list for Science and Healthcare (2022), and co-founded Mathematigals (2020), an educational initiative to make math accessible and promote representation of women in STEM. She has also presented at numerous professional and public events, including the SIAM Conference on Computational Science and Engineering (2023) and the IoD Northern Ireland Women’s Leadership Conference (2022).

Q: How do you feel being recognized for this award?

A: I am truly delighted to be awarded the I. E. Block Community Lecture and humbled to be joining the list of notable mathematicians who have previously received the prize. I am inspired by the vision and dedication of Dr. Block in promoting the application of mathematics within exciting and innovative industrial fields, and grateful for the path he paved for generations of mathematicians.

Q: Could you tell us about the research that won you the award?

A: Throughout my education and professional career I have explored a wide range of technical disciplines using mathematical modeling, from earthly industries such as blenders and furnaces, to extraterrestrial endeavors such as exoplanets and orbital debris. I am fascinated by the inextricable presence of fundamental mathematics in real-world problems, and I relish the opportunity to share these curiosities with the public and spark excitement and interest within the younger generation.

Q: What does your work mean to the public?

A: It is an unfortunate fact that math is commonly perceived by the public as boring, useless, or too difficult. These views often transcend generations and serve to conceal the true beauty and ubiquity of mathematics in the world around us. These persistent misconceptions prevent us from appreciating the plethora of exciting and practical applications of math. By communicating my work in STEM in an accessible and engaging way, I hope to change this narrative, to present math as fascinating and useful, with the ultimate goal of encouraging more young people, particularly young women, to consider careers in math. 

I.E. Block Community Lecture

The I. E. Block Community Lecture is intended to reach out as broadly as possible to students, teachers, and members of the local community, as well as to SIAM members, researchers, and practitioners in fields related to applied and computational mathematics. If you have suggestions for future presenters, please share them with us

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