New Mathematics Institute launched to tackle global problems

December 11, 2003

An international Institute of Mathematical Sciences to foster the application of mathematics to understanding and tackling emerging scientific problems is announced today by Imperial College London.

The Institute will use mathematics to study outbreaks of epidemics and their control, bio-statistics, fluids in engineering and the environment. Staff will also tackle big questions in cosmology and string theory, and provide new analytical tools for the financial sector.

It will be housed in a multi-million pound refurbished building on Prince's Gate, South Kensington, and will be fully operational by early 2005.

Aiming to develop into a national resource that attracts top researchers from all over the world to work in collaboration with UK based scientists on selected programmes, the Institute will also attract the best young researchers through prestigious new research fellowships.

Imperial today also named Fields Medallist Professor Simon Donaldson FRS of the Department of Mathematics as the first President of the Institute, and Professor Phil Hall, former Head of the Department of Mathematics, as its first Director.

The Institute's research programmes, each lasting between three to five years and with specific goals attached, will be largely driven by problems identified across many diverse disciplines in science, technology and medicine.

Sir Richard Sykes, Rector of Imperial College London, said:

"At Imperial we are continuously developing our research activities to address the changing needs of society - in industry, commerce and healthcare. This requires even more emphasis on interdisciplinary work."

"The new Institute will not only provide a research environment where mathematicians work closely with leading experts in science, technology and medicine, but will also raise the level of what can be achieved in some of today's outstanding interdisciplinary research areas."

Professor Phil Hall, first Director of the Institute, said:

"A striking and beautiful aspect of mathematics is that an apparently esoteric area of research can suddenly produce a solution to fundamental problems in science or engineering.

"Numerous examples of this can be found, but perhaps the most startling is the concept of complex numbers. The rather strange notion that one should imagine a number which, when squared, gives -1, has probably turned out to be one of the great turning points in advancing mathematical analysis, with many applications. For example, it is an ideal tool for analysing vibrating mechanical systems or electrical circuits.

"We envisage an institute comprising researchers carrying out mathematical research useful in the immediate term to other disciplines, alongside work that might not be useful to others for decades."

Possible themes for the initial programmes include: About six programmes will run concurrently, each involving five or six staff scientists and visiting scientists, giving the Institute an overall size of 40-50 scientists once it has become fully operational.

The programmes of the Institute will run continuously throughout the year and it is also expected that summer schools will take place in some of the programmes.

Research students from UK universities and overseas will be invited to participate in these activities. Distinguished researchers will be invited as visiting scientists for all or part of the summer to assist with the summer schools and to interact with the staff scientists and faculty at the Institute. Other visiting scientists, typically on sabbatical leave, will spend longer periods in residence at the Institute.

Imperial College will provide premises for the new Institute at 52-53 Prince's Gate, and the Higher Education Funding Council for England has awarded funds of £3 million to reconfigure and refurbish the building as part of its Science Research Investment Fund scheme (Second round).

This building is currently occupied by the College's Business School, which will move in January 2004 to new premises on Exhibition Road. The new building will be ready by the beginning of 2005.

Occupancy of 52-53 Prince's Gate represents a homecoming for mathematics at Imperial, as it was the site of the former Department of Pure Mathematics before its current home in the Huxley Building, 180 Queen's Gate, was built in 1975.

It is envisaged that most of the researchers at the Institute will be staff scientists, who will hold postdoctoral positions for about three years and will have minimal teaching commitments. They will be funded mainly by research grants and contracts from external sources.

In addition, visiting scientist positions will be available for more senior mathematicians on sabbatical from their own institutions. These positions will typically be for three months in the summer, or between six months and a year at other times. Visiting scientists will usually be researchers on sabbatical needing relatively little financial support in order to visit the Institute.

The Institute's first Director will be Philip Hall, Professor of Applied Mathematics and recently Head of the Department of Mathematics at Imperial. He will work in close collaboration with the Institute's President and Steering Committee to implement the Institute's scientific and staffing policies.

"The Institute will be a venue where the best young mathematicians and more senior world leaders in mathematics work on frontier problems in mathematics and its applications," said Professor Hall.

"In addition, there are already dozens of world-rated research mathematicians and scientists in London and nearby and we expect that many of them will take part in the work of the Institute - our combined power is vast".

The first President of the Institute will be Professor of Mathematics and Fields Medallist, Simon Donaldson FRS.

"This is an exciting opportunity for mathematicians in London," said Professor Donaldson.

"The interdisciplinary nature of the new institute will stimulate new interactions with other fields and this will be of enormous benefit to both sides. On the international stage, these special features of the Institute will give it a distinctive character, complementing the other top research institutes around the world."

Professor Roy Anderson FRS, Head of the Department of Infectious Disease Epidemiology in the Faculty of Medicine, is leading the Steering Committee that oversees the organisation of the new Institute.
-end-
For more information and pictures please contact:

Tom Miller
Imperial College London Press Office
Tel: 44-207-594-6704
Mobile: 44-7803-886-248
E-mail: t.miller@imperial.ac.uk

Notes to Editors

About Mathematics at Imperial

The Department of Mathematics at Imperial College is one of the largest in the UK, with around 60 academic staff (including 24 Professors), around 25 Research Associates/Fellows, and a steady flow of international visitors. In addition, a number of Emeritus Professors and Senior Research Fellows continue to play an important role in the research life of the Department. Excellent Computing and Library facilities are available. It has a Fields Medal winner (mathematics' equivalent of the Nobel Prize), a Fellow of the British Academy and eight Fellows of the Royal Society among its staff. Another Fields Medal winner, now retired, was a member of the Department for many years. In the last Research Assessment Exercise (RAE) the Department was awarded the top 5* rating for both Pure Mathematics and Applied Mathematics, with a 5-rating for Statistics. The Department is responsible for a large undergraduate teaching programme, providing three and four-year mathematics degrees, as well as several joint degrees in mathematics and allied disciplines, to around 700 students. Additionally the Department is responsible for ancillary teaching of mathematics and statistics to many other department of the College.

Growth research areas in Mathematics: Website: www.imperial.ac.uk/mathematics

About Imperial College London

Consistently rated in the top three UK university institutions, Imperial College London is a world leading science-based university whose reputation for excellence in teaching and research attracts students (10,000) and staff (5,000) of the highest international quality.

Innovative research at the College explores the interface between science, medicine, engineering and management and delivers practical solutions, which enhance the quality of life and the environment - underpinned by a dynamic enterprise culture.

Website: www.imperial.ac.uk

Imperial College London

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