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Enigmatic SUMS in Leicester

Yesterday I spent an afternoon in Leicester. I visited the University of Leicester and met with the Student Union Maths Society (SUMS) group in the new David Wilson Library. They are an enthusiastic bunch and we had a good meeting discussing their plans for the group and how the IMA can help.

Leicester Library
I then walked a pleasant walk along New Walk between the University of Leicester and De Montfort University. It was a very wet day but there were plenty of people out and walking; the whole walk had a really nice atmosphere.

New Walk
At De Montfort, I attended the IMA East Midlands Branch talk on “Enigma, Bletchley Park & The Battle of the Atlantic” by Dr Mark Baldwin. This was apparently the 251st time Dr Baldwin had given this talk but he was enthusiastic and entertaining nonetheless. I was hoping to share a picture of his Enigma machine, but the crowd having a go with it was too deep! You can find out more about Enigma and see pictures at Wikipedia, and worth a visit is Bletchley Park.

Queens Building, De Montfort

Podcast: Episode 1 – Professor Philip Maini, Oxford – Maths Biology

These are the show notes for episode 1 of the Travels in a Mathematical World podcast. 1 is the multiplicative identity. More facts about the number 1 from

In this episode, Professor Philip Maini of the Centre for Mathematical Biology, University of Oxford, talks about the field of mathematical biology. On his website, I’d recommend you take a look at his “Research Gallery” (link at the top of the page) for more about his work.

If this has piqued your interest, you can read a story about animal patterning and find other mathematical biology articles at plus, the online maths magazine. If you’re really interested, the IMA publishes a journal, Mathematical Medicine and Biology.

You can find out more about my work with the IMA by reading this blog and visiting

Back and forth to Birmingham

University of Birmingham
Over the past few weeks I have made several trips to Birmingham. First, I met with the IMA’s new liaison with the Association of Graduate Careers Advisory Services (AGCAS), Julie Hepburn from the Cardiff University Careers Service. We had a chat about what AGCAS and the IMA can do, and about the careers advice offered to mathematics students in universities, particularly the commonly used leaflet: “Options with mathematics.”

I’ve also visited the more maths grads project, who do some great work in mathematics enrichment at school level. We are exploring ways we can work together in areas we overlap, particularly on careers advice. Of course, a good site for careers advice is the MathsCareers website.

Lastly, I visited Birmingham to attend the LMS Popular Lectures 2008. The first of these was by Dr Tadashi Tokieda of Trinity Hall, University of Cambridge on spin in toy models, which was a very entertaining talk with some fun live demonstrations. I couldn’t stay for the whole of the second talk, which was on the mathematics of viruses by Dr Reidun Twarock of University of York called “Know your enemy – viruses under the mathematical microscope.”

I also took the opportunity to grab 5 minutes with the Co-Chair of the Birmingham undergraduate Maths Society to talk about what the IMA does and how we can work together.

Incidentally, the University of Birmingham has its own train station. Not only is this good news as there is a direct train to there from Nottingham a couple of times a day but it also provides a good image for my experience of travelling the country by train visiting universities:

University railway station

Univeristy railway station sign

Mathematics Today October: University Liaison Officer’s Report

As I have been on leave over much of the rainy summer, I wrote a shorter than usual report for Mathematics Today October.

I am happy to report the IMA Younger Members Committee has taken enthusiastically to the Facebook group and has set up groups on other social networking sites LinkedIn and MySpace. Those of you who are on one of those online communities can join the IMA group and get involved. You should be able to find the group by searching “Institute of Mathematics and its Applications UK”.

For other online activities, October will see the launch of a new podcast, Travels in a Mathematical World. This will feature a series of pieces from people I have met on my travels as ULO. Interesting mathematicians talk about their careers and interesting work they have done. There will be travels in time as well as space with a monthly maths history feature from Noel-Ann Bradshaw of the University of Greenwich and the British Society for the History of Mathematics. Finally we will round off each month with a maths news roundup from Sarah Shepherd, editor of iSquared magazine (incidentally, look out for the IMA adverts on the back covers of upcoming issues of iSquared). You can subscribe to the podcast by visiting

Activities JulyAugust 2008

This is a brief report as I have been taking my annual leave during August while the universities are on their rainy summer break. I have been making the most of my time away however with an email going to heads of mathematics departments nationwide. This suggests activities where I can work with universities and I have had contact from several new student mathematics societies as a result. If you are in touch with such a group please ask them to email me at and we can see how we can work together.

I have also sent a survey to the IMA University Representatives. These are staff in universities who deal with the graduate recruitment exercise, receive copies of Mathematics Today for student and staff common rooms and administer IMA Prizes. I am collecting views on the graduate activities so we can try to have our best shot at recruitment at the end of the academic year. If you have any such views please contact me on

Podcast: Episode 0 – Prelude

This is the first in a series of posts on this blog which are show notes for the Travels in a Mathematical World podcast. As episode 0 is a test, so is this post. Regular posts will contain links to further reading related to the episode of the podcast.

You can subscribe to the podcast and automatically download future episodes by visiting

You can find out more about my work with the IMA at

The Sound of His Own Voice

In my travels so far, I have been recording short interviews/monologues from interesting mathematicians talking about their career and/or an interesting piece of mathematics they have worked on. I have also collected a few maths history pieces on famous historical mathematicians from Noel-Ann Bradshaw of the University of Greenwich and the British Society for the History of Mathematics. I will be releasing these in the new academic year as a podcast, along with a monthly maths news roundup from Sarah Shepherd, editor of iSquared magazine.

It’s funny how difficult it is to sit on your own in a room talking to yourself, knowing that you’re recording it. I found that part way through a sentance my voice would stop and the words would carry on in my head. It was a real strain to force the words out so they could be recorded. Plus there’s a certain shrinking away – what if someone listened to the recording? Of course, this is the idea, but quite shy-making, nonetheless. I think you can hear if you listen to the prelude I recorded that on the two previous attempts I have given up part way through the word “Travels” at the start. This time I stumble but force myself through it and ramble off the rest of what I need to say. I’m sure practice will help!

I hope to launch episode 1 in October. Until then you can listen to episode 0, the prelude and so check you have subscribed to the podcast successfully ready to download the first episode next month. Link: Travels in a Mathematical World podcast. The next post will be the first in a series of show notes for the podcast – posts on this blog that accompany each episode.