Michael Tabor: What do Math PhDs do?

2013-10-24T00:00:00Z Michael Tabor: What do Math PhDs do?Michael Tabor Special to the Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star

Do you remember the math nerd at high school: the loner whom nobody would dance with at the high-school prom? The weirdo at college in badly fitting shorts and strange T-shirts who told incomprehensible math jokes? And, then, the next time you hear of them they have a Ph.D., a hedge fund and drive around in a Lamborghini.

Of course, these are stereotypes and mathematicians are just like other people: they come in all shapes, sizes, and temperaments, and they work on a wide variety of topics – some of which are quite comprehensible! Students in the Program in Applied Mathematics at the University of Arizona – one of highest ranked applied mathematics graduate programs in the US – often undertake interdisciplinary research at the interface of mathematics and important application areas. Here are the stories about some of our recent graduates that illustrate the range and power of mathematics, and how mathematicians can make contributions to the nation’s needs in research, technology, and education.

Brendan’s dissertation focused on developing mathematical models simulating blood flow and oxygen transport in various organs. Given that poor blood flow has been implicated in many diseases good mathematical models can help design more effective treatment strategies. Brendan has just started a postdoctoral position at Duke University where he will study blood flow in kidneys.

Rebecca’s dissertation focused on improving mathematical and computational methods for decision making when information is uncertain or unknown. These methods have many practical applications such as scheduling, logistics, and transportation – all essential concepts in designing industrial processes and public services. Rebecca is continuing her work in this area as a postdoctoral fellow in mathematics at Wayne State University.

Darin developed conceptual and computational models of the role of ice in global climate models – a topic of ever increasing importance. He is now a postdoctoral fellow at the Courant Institute in New York where he is researching the predictability of certain large-scale climate features using information theory, data assimilation, and climate model data.

Scott studied how microscopic particles, such as cells, move in a fluid. He is now a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Wisconsin where he will apply his mathematical expertise to study how clouds interact with each other to produce heavy rainfalls - a project that will further advance our understanding of weather patterns.

David, who will defend his dissertation this Fall, has been working with neuroscientists building computational models of the brain circuits thought to underlie spatial navigation in rodents, with the goal of better understanding how the brain represents, and navigates through, space. His work which combines mathematical modeling and laboratory work, led to the award of a prestigious National Science Foundation postdoctoral fellowship in biology (a rare feat for a mathematician) which he will use to continue his research at Case Western Reserve University next year.

 

Michael Tabor is Professor and Head of Applied Mathematics at the University of Arizona. The Program in Applied Mathematics is part of the University’s School of Mathematical Sciences. The Program was ranked as high as one of the top 3 in the nation in the National Research Council’s 2010 comprehensive review of US graduate programs.

Michael Tabor is Professor and Head of Applied Mathematics at the University of Arizona. The program in Applied Mathematics is part of the University’s School of Mathematical Sciences. The program was ranked as high as one of the top 3 in the nation in the National Research Council’s 2010 comprehensive review of US graduate programs.

Copyright 2014 Arizona Daily Star. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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