SIAM News Blog

Cardiff Students Hold First SIAM Chapter Day

By Angela Mihai

The First Annual SIAM Chapter Day, held at Cardiff University on January 21, 2013, marked the formation of the first SIAM Student Chapter in Wales. This launching event brought together more than 70 research students and faculty in mathematics and engineering, and offered a platform for discussions of a wide range of topics—from computational accuracy to mathematical modeling in science and industry to engineering applications

The formation of the Cardiff SIAM Chapter came as a natural development in an ongoing effort to strengthen the ties between mathematics and engineering at Cardiff; the chapter’s goal is to contribute to the education of a new generation of scientists who can interact with each other in a significant and effective manner, from the beginning. Currently, the number of applied mathematicians is almost equal to that of engineering students in the chapter, and this is suitably reflected by the fact that the president and the vice-president are a mathematician and an engineer, respectively.

The programme included guest lectures by Nick Higham (University of Manchester), Alain Goriely (University of Oxford), Simon Cox (Aberystwyth University), and Matthew Gilbert (University of Sheffield), and poster presentations by doctoral students from Cardiff University and their guests from the Universities of Manchester, Aberystwyth, and Swansea.

Student poster presenters and guest lecturers at the First Annual SIAM Chapter Day at Cardiff University, UK: Front row, from left: Chris Rowlatt, Tom Croft, Darong Jin, Chang-Kye Lee, Mike Walters, Daniel Alves Paladim, and Danas Sutula; back row, from left: Hadrien Courtecuisse, Piotr Kusmierczyk, Lewis Pryce, Olivier Goury, Matthew Gilbert, Alain Goriely, Ross McKenzie, Nick Higham, Mary Aprahamian, Sam Relton, and Simon Cox.

Nick Higham’s discussion of the accuracy and stability of numerical algorithms, rich in examples from everyday life, was complemented by posters by research students providing further technical details. Alain Goriely explored the paradigm of chirality in mechanical biology, showing how many important biological systems, such as bio-gels, DNA, and plant stems, exhibit counterintuitive phenomena that challenge our understanding of fundamental concepts in mechanics and material modeling. Simon Cox talked about the underlying bubble-scale mechanisms in the cellular structure of liquid foams and the emerging field of discrete microfluidics, wherein foams are pushed through narrow channels. This work has found many industrial applications, from oil extraction to food and cosmetic products, although more accurate numerical algorithms are needed to predict the correct mechanical behaviour required for industrial processes. Matthew Gilbert described the so-called layout optimization technique, as applied to truss design problems and to the problem of identifying the critical layout of slip-line discontinuities in a solid body at the point of collapse; the technique employs numerical schemes for solving these and other large-scale mathematical programming problems. Slides for all the guest lectures can be downloaded from the event’s official website.

This one-day event might have seemed ambitious, not least because of an amber weather warning for southeastern Wales the preceding week-end. The aim was to give participants the opportunity to interact across areas, and the speakers and students had to work very hard to make their contributions accessible to a varied and demanding audience.

Everyone was up to the challenge, and the resulting event was thoroughly enjoyed by all involved.

Angela Mihai is a lecturer in applied mathematics at Cardiff University and the secretary and treasurer of SIAM-UKIE. She is also founding editor of the SIAM-UKIE Newsletter. She was the faculty advisor for the SIAM Chapter at Cardiff University at the time of writing of this article.

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