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News 2007

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Professor Tony Pritchard died on 12th August 2007 (12th August 2007)
Ian Stewart wins a Syngenta ABSW Science Writer's Award (16 July 2007)
Matt Keeling awarded the Zoological Society of London's Scientific Medal (28 June 2007)
David Epstein has been awarded a Leverhulme Emeritus Fellowship (28 May 2007)
Ian Stewart wins the Peano Prize 2006 (12 May 2007)
Unveiling of portrait of Christopher Zeeman (12 May 2007)
Sebastian van Strien wins Royal Society Leverhulme Trust Senior Research Fellowship (3 May 2007)
Mark Pollicott wins Royal Society Leverhulme Trust Senior Research Fellowship (3 May 2007)
Peter Topping wins Leverhulme Research Leadership Award for Geometric Flows (29 April 2007)
Jim Eells died on the 14th February, 2007 (15 February 2007)
Andrew Stuart awarded the 2007 JD Crawford Prize (8 January 2007)

 12 August 2007Top 

Professor Anthony Pritchard died on 12th August 2007

Professor Anthony Pritchard collapsed and died from heart failure on 12th August 2007 whilst on holiday in Lanzarotte.

Tony got his BSc from Kings College, London in 1958, a Diploma of Imperial College (DIC) in 1959, lectured first at Lanchester Polytechnic and then came to Warwick in September 1968, writing a PhD thesis on “Stability and control of distributed parameter systems” in 1970 in the Department of Engineering under the direction of Patrick Parks before transferring to the Mathematics Institute. He became half-time in 1999 and retired in 2002, but continued to teach his Modern Control Theory course for us as an Emeritus Professor.

Tony's main research has been concerned with developing an abstract theory for the control of systems governed by semigroups. This theory includes as special cases ordinary differential equations, delay equations and partial differential equations and allows for system theory concepts of controllability, observability, stability, optimal control and filtering, and realisation theory. He founded a Control Theory Centre of which he was Director with funding from the Leverhulme Trust and the Science Research Council to develop this field. In the 80's he developed a theory for unbounded inputs and outputs to examine system theoretic questions for PDEs with controls on the boundary. More recently he worked on a robustness theory for state space systems.

The following obituary has been written by Ruth Curtain and Diederich Hinrichsen.   A full version will be published in the International Journal of Control.

Obituary (485KB PDF)

On Monday 19 November 2007 there is a Meeting on Control Theory in memory of Tony Pritchard organised by Stuart Townley (Exeter) and Robert MacKay.

 16 July 2007Top 

Ian Stewart wins a Syngenta ABSW Science Writer's Award

On July 10th Ian Stewart received a Syngenta ABSW Science Writer's Award given for the best feature on a science subject in a specialist periodical for his article ‘Ride the celestial subway’ published in New Scientist on 25th March 2006.

The Association of British Science Writers (ABSW) exists to help those who write about science and technology, and to improve the standard of science journalism in the UK.

 28 June 2007Top 

Matt Keeling awarded the Zoological Society of London's Scientific Medal

Matt Keeling was awarded the Zoological Society of London's Scientific Medal at a ceremony in London earlier this month. He is seen here with Prof Pat Bateson of the ZSL. The medal is awarded to zoologists with no more than 15 years postdoctoral experience, in recognition of scientific merit.

 28 May 2007Top 

David Epstein has been awarded a Leverhulme Emeritus Fellowship of £19,690 for Deconvolution via Markov Chain Monte Carlo methods. This concerns work he is doing with Conrad Mullineaux of QMUL, an expert on photosynthesis.

MembraneThe image shows a two-dimensional membrane roughly 3000 nanometres in diameter, where the light is provided by auto-fluorescent molecules involved in photosynthesis, emitting light at wavelength 700 nanometres, so that blurring is considerable. The displayed image from a confocal microscope is the result of convolving the true shape of the membrane with the point spread function and combining with noise. For various reasons we need to retrieve the true shape, as well as we can. This is an ill-posed problem: that is, the map from true shapes to images is neither injective nor surjective, even if there is no noise, and the answer can only be found probabilistically. A probability distribution of possible membrane shapes is set up using biological information, following the Gibbsian procedure first developed in statistical mechanics. The MCMC process enables one to sample randomly from the distribution, which would otherwise be difficult to deal with. The result of the MCMC should be (almost) as good as knowing the actual true shape. The award will be used to employ Christophe Ladroue for 6 months as a postdoc—Chris is currently a postdoc working with Anastasia Papavasiliou in the Warwick Statistics Department.

 12 May 2007Top 

Ian Stewart wins the Peano Prize 2006

The 7th ‘Premio Peano’ has been awarded to Ian Stewart, for the Italian translation Com'è bella la Matematica – Lettere a una giovane amica (Bollati Boringhieri, 2006) of his book Letters to a Young Mathematician (Basic Groups, Joat Enterprises, 2006). The prize will be presented in Turin in December 2007.

The Peano Prize was founded in 1999/2000 by the Associazione Subalpina Mathesis with the sponsorship of the Department of Mathematics of the University of Turin and is awarded annually for the best book published in Italy during the relevant academic year and has the aim of promoting the public understanding of mathematics. The prize is named after the great Piemontese mathematician Giuseppe Peano who, amongst many other contributions, founded the area of symbolic logic.

 12 May 2007Top 

Unveiling of portrait of Christopher Zeeman

 Portrait of Christopher Zeeman
On Saturday, 12 May 2007 a portrait of Sir Christopher Zeeman FRS, by the artist Peter Edwards, was unveiled in the Mathematics Institute Common Room by Lady Zeeman in the presence of the Pro-Chancellor John Leighfield, Vice-Chancellor Professor Nigel Thrift, staff, and alumni who had gathered for the 25th anniversary of the 1981 entry.

The portrait was commissioned by the Mead Gallery of the University of Warwick in honour of Sir Christopher who was the Foundation Professor of Mathematics at Warwick. The Vice-Chancellor, Professor Nigel Thrift, spoke of Sir Christopher's contributions to Warwick and to mathematics both nationally and internationally.

Peter Edwards, the artist, explained that he had already painted a portrait of Sir Christopher for Hertford College, Oxford and that it was rare for an artist to have the possibility of painting a second portrait of someone. His portrait for Warwick was painted from life in Sir Christopher's home and is much less formal than the Hertford portrait.

On behalf of the Department, Professor Colin Sparrow, its present Head, spoke of Sir Christopher's lasting influence on the mathematics at Warwick. He also thanked the alumni for their generous support of Mathematics and the University.

Approximately 150 people attended the unveiling and lunch afterwards. Around 100 were alumni, and the rest made up of University senior officers mentioned above plus the Deputy Vice-Chancellor Professor Stuart Palmer, and Pro-Vice Chancellors Professor Susan Bassnet and Professor John Jones, staff from the Alumni Office and the Mathematics Institute and their families. In the evening was the 25th anniversary Alumni Dinner for the 1981 student intake.

Photo Gallery

 3 May 2007Top 

Sebastian van Strien wins Royal Society Leverhulme Trust Senior Research Fellowship

 Photo of Sebastian van Strien
Sebastian van Strien has been awarded a Royal Society Leverhulme Trust Senior Research Fellowship for the academic year 2007–2008 to study the Palis Conjecture in dimension one.

Often evolution over time can be described in the following manner: the state xn+1 at time n+1 depends on (i.e. is a function) of the state xn at time n. Here the state variables xn are om some space M and the above dependence can be written in the form xn+1 = f(xn) where f : M -> M is some function. The aim of the theory of dynamical systems is to provide information on orbits {xn} and in particular on the long-term future, i.e. xn for n large. Obviously this is rather ambitious, as the example of weather forecasting shows.

One good property of a dynamical system would be that it is structurally stable. This means that if one changes the dependence of xn+1 on xn slightly (i.e. replace f by a nearby f'), the new orbits { x'n} would have ‘qualitatively’ the same behaviour. Until the 1970's some distinguished mathematicians thought that most systems are structurally stable. This, however, is not true, except if M has dimension one (as was recently shown by Shen, Kozlvoski and van Strien). In dimension one, structurally systems maps are particularly nice: for (Lebesgue) almost all starting points x0 the orbit {xn} tends to a periodic, oscillatory, motion.

What happens now if one chooses ‘randomly’ a polynomial f? In the late 1970's it was shown by Jakobson that with positive probability one expects to find a polynomial which is not structurally stable: if one picks a real number a randomly, there is a positive probability that xn+1 = axn(1-xn) has non-periodic behaviour which can be described very well in statistical terms. For such a parameter a, one can not say what will happen in 100 days, but a prediction on the probability that xn is in some region can be given. This of course is still very nice.

Systems need not always be nice at all. Indeed, it is possible that the time average

an := (x0 + x1 +...+ xn-1)/n

does not converge: the average an gets and stays close to one number, but then after a long time seems to converge to some other number and so on. This situation is certainly strange: it would correspond to a dynamical system – like a pendulum without friction – which from time to time suddenly slows down, and then much later speeds up again.

Roughly speaking, the well-known Palis conjecture states that the probability of finding such a bad system is zero. The aim of this project is to prove this conjecture in the one-dimensional setting.

 3 May 2007Top 

Mark Pollicott wins Royal Society Leverhulme Trust Senior Research Fellowship

 Photo of Mark Pollicott
Mark Pollicott has been awarded a Royal Society Leverhulme Trust Senior Research Fellowship for the academic year 2007–2008 to work on Applications of Thermodynamic Formalism to Lyapunov Exponents, and related topics.

The main theme of this reseach is to apply ideas from ergodic theory, particularly that branch called Thermodynamic Formalism, to the study of problems in related areas of Mathematics. One example of this is the study of Lyapunov exponents, whereby we consider the size of a matrix given by multiplying together randomly chosen square matrices (from a finite family). The Lyapunov exponent is the rate of growth of the norm of a typical product, and its existance is guarenteed by a classical result of Furstenberg and Kesten.

In general, it is notoriously difficult to find useful expressions for the Lyapunov exponent which, in particular, allow accurate estimates on its numerical value. However, in the case of positive matrices techniques from Thermodynamic formalism can be used to compute the value to considerable accuracy.

For example, in the cases of the matrices $\left(\matrix{2 &1\cr1 &1\cr}\right)
<em> and $\left(\matrix{3 &1 \cr 2 &1\cr}\right)$, chosen according to the usual (1/2, 1/2)-Bernoulli measure, the Lyapunov exponent is

1.1433110351029492458432518536555882994025 ...

There are other anticipated connections with Teichmüller flows (in geometry) and hidden Markov chains (in coding theory).

 29 April 2007Top 

Peter Topping wins Leverhulme Research Leadership Award for Geometric Flows

 Photo of Peter Topping

Peter Topping of the Warwick Mathematics Institute has been awarded £762,418 by the Leverhulme Trust to fund postdoctoral fellowships and PhD studentships over the next 5–6 years. The research will be in geometric analysis, centred on geometric flows.

For more information, see: http://www.maths.warwick.ac.uk/~topping/jobs.html

 15 February 2007Top 
Jim Eells

Professor James Eells, 1926—2007

Jim Eells died on the 14th February, 2007 after a long illness.

Jim received his PhD under the direction of Hassler Whitney at Harvard University in 1954 and joined the Warwick Mathematics Institute in 1970 from Cornell as the first professor of Analysis. He chaired the department from 1979 to 1981 and retired in 1992. In 1986 Jim was invited by Professor A. Salam to set up a Mathematics Group at the ICTP which he led until 1992 and was succeeded by M.S. Narasimhan. The Mathematics Genealogy Project lists 38 PhD students, 26 from Warwick.

 8 January 2007Top 

Andrew Stuart awarded the 2007 JD Crawford Prize

 Photo of Andrew Stuart
Andrew Stuart is to receive the 2007 JD Crawford Prize from the Society for Industrial and Applied Mathematics (SIAM) for his outstanding contributions to the fields of stochastic ordinary and partial differential equations. These contributions span the gamut from fundamental mathematical theory to algorithm development and applications, including the fitting of SDEs to physical models, the derivation of effective macroscopic models, and the dynamics of inertial particles in random fields. Of special note is Prof. Stuart's penetrating analysis in the area of infinite-dimensional path sampling, where he addresses problems of how to sample paths of SDEs conditioned on certain types of observations, including those made in important applications such as Kalman-Bucy filters.

The prize was presented at the SIAM conference on Applications of Dynamical Systems to be held May 28–June 1, 2007 in Snowbird, Utah.

Press release. (PDF document)

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