Mathematics enrichment

A crucial part of our school’s goal of increasing the interest in mathematics of school children are the mathematics master classes run by Dr. Jenny Sharp. An overview of the classes can be found here.

The mathematics masterclass, at Plymouth University, is a complete programme for students aged 9 to 15 who are able and interested in mathematics.

Some of the topics covered earlier this year were:

  • From Flowers to Fine Art. An investigation into a remarkable number. Jenny Sharp
  • The Greatest Problem of the Human Race. An introduction to the exponential function. Martin Lavelle
  • Conjecture and Proof. What do you think and is it true? Matthew Craven.
  • Biggest and Best? An introduction to linear programming. Luke Cole
  • A Mathematical Medley A circus of activities

The classes are part of a nationwide programme of mathematics masterclasses under the umbrella of the Royal Institution – see

Plenary talk at the international lattice 2017 conference

Soon all the students will have taken their exams and submitted their final coursework. Over the summer, the staff have more time to work on their research. An important activity is sharing results at international conferences. In the Centre for Mathematical Sciences at Plymouth University, there are four researchers who work in the field of lattice QCD.

Every year the progress in the field of lattice field theory is reviewed at large international conference. This year the lattice 2017 conference is in Granda Spain. Typically between 300 and 400 people attend this conference. There are various different types of presentations made at a large conference: poster, parallel talk, and plenary talk.  A plenary talk is presented to the all the people attending the conference and is the most prestigious type of talk.

This year Dr. Antonio Rago from the center is presenting a plenary talk,      to the over 300 strong audience of the lattice conference, with the title: Lattice QCD on new chips: a community summary.


Simulation of cars queuing to board a ferry

One of the modules we teach in the School is called:  Operational Research and Monte Carlo Methods. The module involves very few lectures, with the emphasis on the students working in groups on practical problems via case studies.  At the end of last week, the students presented their analysis of queuing of cars boarding  a ferry. It took two mornings for the module leader: Dr. Malgorzata Wojtys to view all the presentations.

Additional security checks on cars boarding a ferry were required. This slowed down the cars entering the ferry. So the students were asked to design additional scenarios, such as adding more security booths, or opening the ticket booths for longer, so that more cars boarded the ferry on time. The software used was SIMUL8.


Geospatial Python

Although writing computer programs is sometimes thought of as a solitary activity, there are many important social aspects. For example, it is important to be able to find expertise, if you are stuck on writing an application. Dr. Tomasz Szyrowski , a recent graduate of our School has organized a user group for the python programming language.   The name of the user group is PyPlym.

On the 27th April there was a meeting of PyPlym. Three staff members from Mathematics and one from computer science attended. There was a useful practical session, where code to modify the sensor output from a mobile phone was added to KML file, which could be  displayed in Google Earth. There were two talks as well.

As part of our Mathematics with High Performance Computing degree we teach Python in the second year.

Bouncing Light off Light

Dr. Tom Heinzl visited the DESY XFEL in April. This is a 1.5 million Euro X-ray free electron laser, situated in a 3 km long tunnel near Hamburg, Germany. It has just seen “first light” on 4th May (see Tom attended a meeting of the HIBEF User Consortium (see, where he gave a talk on “Light-by-light scattering”  This is a classically forbidden process that only becomes possible in quantum theory due to particle-anti-particle fluctuations of the vacuum. A variant of this process has recently been observed in heavy ion collisions at CERN ( The HIBEF facility combines the DESY XFEL with high-power optical lasers. Such a unique combination may allow the first detection of light-by-light scattering in a purely electromagnetic setting (without recourse to high-energy matter particles such as heavy ions). Tom and collaborators at Plymouth University, Anton Ilderton and Ben King, are providing theory support for the HIBEF experimentalists who want to perform this fundamental physics experiment.