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Prize Spotlight: Emily Shuckburgh

Emily Shuckburgh
Emily Shuckburgh of the British Antarctic Survey delivered the I. E. Block Community Lecture at the 2017 SIAM Annual Meeting (AN17) in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Her lecture, “From Flatland to Our Land: A Mathematician’s Journey through Our Changing Planet,” drew members of the local community to join meeting attendees at the SIAM Annual Meeting on July 12, 2017.

SIAM sponsors the I. E. Block Community Lecture to encourage public appreciation of the excitement and vitality of applied mathematics by reaching 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. The lecture is open to the public and is named in honor of I. Edward Block, a founder of SIAM who served as its Managing Director for nearly 20 years. 

Shuckburgh is a climate scientist and deputy head of the Polar Oceans Team at the British Antarctic Survey (BAS), based in Cambridge. UK. The BAS is focused on understanding the role of the polar oceans in the global climate system. Shuckburgh received a BA in mathematics from Oxford University and then moved to Cambridge University to complete Part III Mathematics Tripos at Trinity College. She earned her PhD in 1999 in the Department of Applied Mathematics and Theoretical Physics (DAMTP) at Cambridge.

Shuckburgh holds a number of positions at Cambridge University: Fellow in Mathematics at Darwin College, member of the Faculty of Mathematics, associate fellow of the Centre for Science and Policy, and member of the Cambridge Forum for Sustainability and the Environment. She is also a fellow of the Cambridge Institute for Sustainability Leadership, which is dedicated to working with leaders from business, government, and civil society on the critical global challenges of the 21st century such as climate change, water scarcity, and food security. She has acted as an advisor to the UK Government on behalf of the Natural Environment Research Council.

Q: Why are you excited about delivering the I. E. Block Community Lecture?

A: I am delighted that this year's Block Lecture celebrates the important role mathematics plays in shaping our understanding of the world and tackling the problems we face. Climate change is one of the greatest challenges of our time.

Q: Could you tell us a bit about your research and what it means to the public?

A: The application of mathematical ideas and tools is driving forward our knowledge of our changing climate and the risks posed to society and the natural world, and is guiding our response to this global threat. My research applies techniques from diverse branches of mathematics to unravel the workings of our climate. It captures, for example, the hidden geometry shaping the circulation of our oceans and employs tools from machine learning and artificial intelligence to make sense of the vast data streams coming from computer models and observations. I have a particular focus on understanding the changes that are occurring far away in the polar regions - the Arctic and Antarctic - and how they impact the rest of the planet.
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