by Simon Levey
10 June 2011
A recent ranking of university mathematics departments has listed Imperial College London as having the most influential mathematics research of any institution in Europe.
Academic publishers Thomson-Reuters created the new chart by establishing how much the research findings of scientists in the world’s top 200 institutions influenced research by others outside of that institution. They did this by counting the number of times any newly published findings refer to a given mathematician’s work, also known as a ’citation’. The number of citations each researcher or research publication received indicates the extent to which they lead opinion or influence in that field. Based on these findings, Imperial is ranked 13th in the world and is the highest placed non-US institution overall.
Dr Emma McCoy , Head of the Department of Mathematics at Imperial said: "I am very proud of this success, which reflects the breadth and depth of our world-leading research. This global ranking is testament to the years of intense work that has been put in by many over recent decades, and it demonstrates the impact that this research is having, not only in the mathematics community, but in the positive influence mathematics has on the world around us."
The new ranking, which was announced in the Times Higher Education last week, refers to research published during the ten years from 2001 until 2011. The ranking also singled out two Imperial mathematicians as particularly ’highly-cited’ individuals : the algebraist Professor Martin Liebeck ; and geometrician Professor Simon Donaldson.
Professor Simon Donaldson is one of the most well-known mathematicians at Imperial, who aged 29 became one of just 51 scientists ever to be awarded the International Medal for Outstanding Discoveries in Mathematics, or Fields Medal. This honour is often described as the Nobel Prize for mathematics. Also a Fellow of the Royal Society, the UK’s national academy for science, Professor Donaldson is widely regarded as one of the top mathematicians in the world today.
Professor Maggie Dallman , Principal of Imperial’s Faculty of Natural Sciences, said: "Research in mathematics underpins our understanding of many key areas of life and physical science, medicine and engineering and I am pleased to see Imperial is celebrating such international success in this field. Whilst leading the UK’s competitive stance and providing a benchmark for research success in Europe, we are also proud to be working collaboratively with researchers, at home and abroad, to fulfil our goals and bring about significant global economic and societal benefits."
Research in the Department of Mathematics includes study into pure mathematics, applied mathematics, mathematical physics, mathematical finance and statistics. Imperial’s mathematicians increase the range of their influence by working in collaboration with scientists, medics and engineers who can apply their research findings to everyday problems. Some recent research successes in the department include the following:
New research groups in Mathematical Biology and Dynamical Systems are the joining forces to underpin the use of mathematics in modern engineering and life sciences across the College. For example, Professor Darryl Holm’s research collaboration into the mechanics and dynamics of fluids is used by clinical researchers trying to understand and surgically treat cardiac fibrillation (uncoordinated contraction of the heart muscles) in patients. Professor Holm’s work, supported by the British Heart Foundation, The Royal Society and a new recent grant of £1.4 million from the European Research Council (ERC), exemplifies the influence that research in mathematics can have on biomedical research and human health.
Laminar Flow Control
Professor Philip Hall has recently begun a £5 million research collaboration with the Department of Aeronautics and industrial partners, which looks into Laminar Flow Control (LFC), the technology of reducing aerodynamic drag on aircraft. The researchers aim to improve the efficiency of aircraft, minimising the amount of fuel they consume and reducing the level of noise created by the aircraft’s body as it passes through the air. They hope this technology will become the cornerstone of aircraft design, saying that their efforts to reduce drag can engineers can lead cut the amount of fuel an aircraft uses and reduce the amount of atmospheric pollution it produces. This collaboration is funded by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) Programme Grant and reflects the extent to which mathematics supports these important research and development areas.
A project in geometry , headed by Professor Alessio Corti and Dr Tom Coates, aims to map all the known shapes in three, four and five dimension on a periodic table similar to that of the chemical elements. As these building block shapes are revealed, they will work out the equations that describe each shape and through this, they expect to develop a better understanding of the shapes’ geometric properties and how different shapes are related to one another. The mathematicians hope the results will be applicable to a wide range of problems in mathematics and physics. Dr Coates has recently won a prestigious Philip Leverhulme Pr ize, which is awarded to outstanding scholars under the age of 36 who have ’made a substantial contribution to their particular field of study, recognised at an international level, and where the expectation is that their greatest achievement is yet to come.’