OCIAM (Oxford Centre for Industrial and Applied Mathematics) was born in 1989 when a small group of practical applied mathematicians moved from the Mathematical Institute in Oxford into a separate building across the road. From a beginning of 6 faculty members with Alan Tayler as its first director and a handful of students OCIAM has now trebled in size and in 2013 the group, with the rest of Oxford Mathematics, moved into a brand new purpose-built building in the heart of Oxford. One of the first students in OCIAM was Jon Chapman who is now the Professor of Mathematics and its Applications and the current – fifth – Director of OCIAM.
Mathematicians are traditionally fuelled by coffee, and coffee-time was, and still is, the pivotal daily event which cements the OCIAM spirit. Faculty (both current and emeritus), post docs, visitors and students all meet there to discuss an amazing range of topics from the most esoteric mathematics to when to hold the next party. Other regular events are the Friday Workshops (where problems from industry or other departments are subject to intense discussion), the Thursday seminar on “Industrial and Applied Mathematics Seminar” and the Junior Applied Mathematics Seminars (to which no faculty are allowed) which have been held fortnightly in term time since at least 1992.
OCIAM grew out of the success of the Study Groups with Industry which started in Oxford in 1968; these meetings developed into the European Study Groups with Industry and up to 10 meetings are now held each year in different European countries. As the numbers have grown so the areas of application and collaboration have widened. Perhaps the most dramatic story is the growth of mathematical finance which developed gradually within OCIAM and is now an independent research group in Mathematical and Computational Finance. This Centre, which was originally set up by Sam Howison is now comparable in size to OCIAM. There are other “children” of OCIAM – such as the Mathematical Geoscience Group and the Applied Dynamical Systems Group, have grown up fast.
Students are trained in industrial applications via the MSc in Mathematical Modelling and Scientific Computing (a one year course based on the ECMI Technomathematics programme) and the new doctoral programme in Industrially Focussed Mathematical Modelling.