We're solving real life maths challenges and inspiring young mathematicians
Mathematics is sometimes invisible to us in our everyday lives, but it plays an essential part in so many areas of society, from architecture to weather forecasting.
In the School of Mathematics at UEA, our researchers are firmly committed to using their expertise to tackle real societal challenges. In particular, they are encouraged and supported to develop relationships with industrial partners. The Centre for Interdisciplinary Mathematical Research, for example, exists to facilitate collaborative work between industry partners, academics from other disciplines and mathematicians. A number of consultancy contracts have also been set up through the Centre.
Our researchers are regular participants at collaborative study groups, including the European Study Groups with Industry and the Mathematics in Medicine Study Groups. These provide fruitful opportunities for industry and academic researchers to work alongside mathematicians and use maths to address real life problems.
We also work hard to embrace a wider remit of raising awareness of the importance of maths in today's society and to all our futures and, to that end, we have worked with MP's to deliver briefings on modern mathematics.
We are also working with schools and with the general public to inspire people to explore mathematics further and to appreciate its usefulness and relevance.
Here are just some of the ways in which maths at UEA has had an impact:
Our work with MPs has led to improved mutual understanding
Abstract mathematics underpins much of our modern technology and our researchers have been working with UK politicians to make sure this branch of science is properly recognised and invested in.
A work shadowing project between one of our researchers and a Member of Parliament led to the opportunity for four members of the school to present a number of maths topics to the House of Lords. These included the use of statistics in managerial decisions and how mathematics can influence road planning and predicting travel times. We also addressed the future funding of pure mathematics research.
Our efforts to influence governmental policy continue and we feel we have succeeded in having an impact on science policy, and have also achieved an improved understanding of what the world outside science might expect from our work.
We use mathematics to solve practical challenges
Mathematics can be an indispensable tool for solving large-scale practical problems. Researchers at UEA frequently work with industrial partners to help them address particular issues.
We worked with a UK-based company, Structure Flex, that designs water bags used to carry out safety tests on cranes. The company was designing a new 100 tonne bag and wanted to calculate the stresses that would be exerted on the fabric of the bag and its supports when it was filled with water. Our researchers calculated the longitudinal stresses on the bag caused by the supporting slings, and the horizontal stresses caused by the water itself.
The company was then able to feed this information into the design process, enabling it to make some crucial changes that would result in a water bag that can withstand the pressure of 100 tonnes of water.
Our work can have an impact on aircraft safety
The effect that ice can have on aircraft safety is well known: if ice builds up on an aeroplane's wings, for example, it can affect lift and control and lead to accidents. Existing trusted models used to predict ice formation on aircraft have not managed to take in to account the behaviour of the water droplets and how the splashing of the droplet hitting the aircraft affects how the ice is formed.
The School of Mathematics has been working with aircraft icing specialists AeroTex UK. The company develops icing prediction codes and helps to design and certify ice protection systems. Our researchers have helped AeroTex UK to better understand the physics of large droplet impacts and splashing and how that might affect ice formation, particularly on the wings of aeroplanes.
AeroTex has been able to use these insights to inform its icing prediction software, ultimately leading to improved aircraft safety.
Mathematics can help tame the sea!
We've used some sophisticated modelling techniques to predict the behaviour of harbour waves. This work has enabled us to help coastal engineers design and repair sea walls and has been applied to a number of industrial projects.
Our work with industrial partners has also enabled companies to improve their safety and risk estimates. A project with the consulting engineers Charles Scott and Partners, for example, led to an improved design of particular structures that needed to be able to withstand wave impacts.
Our researchers were part of an EPSRC-funded project looking at particular problems in the design and building of sea walls and harbours. This has led to a productive partnership with the leading coastal engineering consultants, HR Wallingford Ltd, through which we have been able to ensure that other aspects of our work on wave impact have a route to commercial exploitation.