Doctorate in Industrially Focused Mathematical Modelling – InFoMM CDT

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The EPSRC Centre for Doctoral Training (CDT) in Industrially Focused Mathematical Modelling (InFoMM), is based at the Mathematical Institute at the University of Oxford. This unique 4 year programme facilitates the training of doctoral students in real world mathematical problems. Roxana Feier writes about her experiences so far:

“I am a second year doctoral student in Oxford’s EPSRC Centre for Doctoral Training (CDT) in Industrially Focused Mathematical Modelling (InFoMM), a four-year degree training students in mathematical methods applied to company challenges. The programme benefits from a large number of industrial partners who sponsor research projects, host company visits, and give courses on topics ranging from project management to high performance computing.

In the first year, my coursemates and I went through a rigorous training phase focusing on different aspects of mathematical modelling and scientific computing. The courses were highly collaborative, favouring work in small groups over assignments done individually. Throughout the year, we worked together on challenges such as modelling the production of sugar from sugar cane and implementing deep learning approaches for data classification. Personally, I learned a lot about working in teams of people with different personalities, something that is certain to help me in the future.

The first year also included two Industrial Enrichment Programmes, where we learned about the challenges (mathematical or not) that companies face in different sectors. One company, for instance, described the clinical trial process and the difficulties they encounter given their unique computational approach to drug-discovery. Many of the courses were hands-on and included exercises on market research (determining the business potential of a product), managing the development of an oil field under uncertainty, and forecasting product demand in retail.

presentationAfter the training phase, each of us tackled two 10-week mini-projects proposed by industrial partners and co-supervised by Oxford academics. We all presented our work at the end of each set of projects, in what were perhaps my two favourite days in the CDT so far. The projects covered a wide range of mathematical topics, including fluid dynamics, numerical PDE solvers, data clustering, uncertainty quantification, modelling of chemical processes, compressed sensing, and network science. The presentations themselves were well prepared and fun to listen to, combining just the right amount of mathematical detail with insights into specific industries that I would not have easily gathered in other ways. I was impressed with the kind of impact some of this work has had already inside the companies, including significantly more accurate algorithms, new priorities for further research, and one potential patent application.

My coursemates and I have just started working on our research projects, which will be the primary focus of the next three years of the programme. One of the nice things about having worked together so closely over the past year is that we now find it natural to go to each other for questions, advice, and encouragement. I am now genuinely interested to see what kind of things my coursemates discover in their projects. As I am interested in working in industry after I complete my DPhil, I appreciate that InFoMM provides this opportunity to learn how mathematics is used to study real-world problems in various industries.”

The CDT also hosts the UK Graduate Modelling Camp each year for PhD students. The Camp is a 4-day workshop that aims to provide participants with hands-on experience of mathematical modelling under the guidance of an experienced instructor. This year it will take place 15th – 18th of March 2016 at the Mathematical Institute. For more information on this and InFoMM PhD programme please visit http://www.maths.ox.ac.uk/infomm.

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