If you think mathematicians spend all their time alone working on obscure theories, think again! Two academics from Macquarie University’s (MQ) Department of Mathematics and Statistics want everyone to know that maths is well grounded in reality. “We work on problems we can observe in the real world,” says lecturer Dr Justin Tzou. “It’s about describing and improving the world around us.”
Maths is everywhere
Justin loves how maths can be applied to anything. One of the essential tools he uses is differential equations, which he recommends every STEM student should study. “It’s amazing how much of the world can be described by differential equations! If you want to study anything science-related, you will be so much more successful if you focus on understanding maths.”
One of Justin’s areas of research is in pattern formation, which can describe anything from the distribution of spots on a cheetah to the patches of vegetation in deserts. Another is in search optimisation, which can be applied in search and rescue missions or even fishing.
Professor Jim Denier, who heads the Mathematics and Statistics Department, carries out a lot of work on fluid mechanics, which involves understanding the behaviour of fluids. Jim’s interested in how the motion of fluids, air or water, becomes turbulent. This affects things such as how much drag an aircraft experiences, and so how much fuel it uses. He’s also modelled the flow of blood through umbilical cords to help understand how the cord may affect foetal development.
Jim knows how essential maths is to understanding the world around us. “Every time we engage with the world, maths is a major driver,” he says.
MQ’s new Bachelor of Mathematical Sciences
New for 2020, the future-ready Bachelor of Mathematical Sciences at MQ is the only course of its kind in Sydney. Designed to provide students with a modern mathematical and statistical education, it covers key skills such as modelling, problem solving and data analysis, as well as the crucial softer skills.
To get there: bit.ly/MQUCourses
Author: Larissa Fedunik-Hofman
Larissa is the editorial assistant for Careers with STEM and a Chemistry PhD student. Larissa’s goal is to promote public engagement with STEM through inspiring stories.