Sabbatical at CERN

The staff in the mathematical sciences at Plymouth University have a number of different components to their job descriptions. It is obviously important to be an excellent teacher, but another part of the job description is maintaining  international leadership in a research field. There are other hidden part of the job too , such as administration.

If external support can be found, staff can take a sabbatical, typically for a year,  at another institution, so that can concentrate on their research. Dr. Antonio Rago from CMS is visiting CERN for the year 2017-2018 to work on research full time. He is working in the theory division of CERN.

Talk in Israel

Dr. Daniel Robertz from CMS is presenting a talk at the 23rd Conference on Applications of Computer Algebra  in Jerusalem. The title of the talk is: Towards a symbolic package for systems of nonlinear difference equations.


Difference algebra has been studied in analogy to differential algebra. However, concepts such as characteristic sets for differential systems have not been developed in the same generality for difference systems yet. In particular, methods such as the Rosenfeld-Gröbner algorithm, regular chains and Thomas decomposition for differential systems are not  available for difference systems. Among the
many applications of difference algebra is, e.g., the consistency analysis of finite difference schemes for partial differential equations.
This talk presents results of trying to transfer the concept of differential Thomas decomposition to systems of nonlinear difference equations and develop a symbolic package for systems of nonlinear difference equations. It reports on joint work with Vladimir Gerdt




Physics academics invited to share expertise in China

The following article was orginally circulated in the staff bulletin.

Two Theoretical Physics Lecturers have just returned from China after sharing their research with a number of high-profile organisations. Dr Ben King gave lectures on strong field physics at the National University of Defence Technology (NUDT) summer school in Changsha, and was also invited to collaborate with researchers at the China Aerodynamics Research and Development Centre (CARDC), where he spent one month working on quantum electrodynamics in intense fields. Meanwhile, Dr Tom Heinzl went to Shanghai to present his research and sit on the committee of an International Review Meeting thanks to sponsorship from the Shanghai Institute of Optics and Fine Mechanics (SIOM) and the Chinese Academy of Sciences. The meeting’s purpose was to discuss and review the scientific opportunities for the ‘Station of Extreme Light’ (SEL) at the Shanghai Coherent Light Facility (SCLF), and explore the conceptual design and technical approach towards a 100-petawatt laser.

Talk at GECCO 2017

This month Dr. Matthew  Craven is talking at the  Genetic and Evolutionary Computation Conference (GECCO 2017)  in Berlin.

The titles of Matthew’s talks are below

  • Exploring the (Efficient) Frontiers of Portfolio Optimization
    Matthew J. Craven, David I. Graham
  • BBIOS: A Characterization of Evolutionary Algorithm Stability
    Matthew J. Craven, Simon P. Martin

School planning day

Although the current teaching has finished for the year, this doesn’t mean that the staff can start a long vacation, only to resurface again in the middle of September.  The summer time is a good time for staff to concentrate on research and network by presenting their work at international conferences.

Also, the summer is a good time to start to plan for the next year’s teaching. Tomorrow the staff in the school, from Computing, Mathematics and Electrical Engineering will meet together for a day long meeting at Plymouth University’s Marine Station.

As well as updates on planning from the School Executive, the meeting will include talks and workshops on: making the most out of lectures lasting two hours, and how to use skype and webinars in teaching.

As well as the cool river front location, the food is normally pretty good.


Work placement in Mathematics

Next week (3rd – 7th July) Dr Jenny Sharpe  is organizing a work experience week for year 10 and year 12 students in mathematics. There are 18 in total (13 year 10 and 5 year 12). They will be supervised during the week by two undergraduate students on the  Maths with Education program.

Their timetable for the week is:

Monday 3rd July


Arrive, Introductions, Health and Safety Briefing

Jenny Sharp

9:45 – 10:30

Introductory Collaborative Group Activity and introducing tasks to be done throughout the week.

Jenny Sharp

12:30 – 13:30


14:00 – 14:30

Careers in Mathematics

Matthew Craven



Tuesday 4th July



12:30 – 13:30




Wednesday 5th July


Arrive, go to Babbage for FMSP conference

All day

FMSP Conference

Margaret Harding



Thursday 6th July



10:00 – 11:00


David McMullan

12:00 – 12:30

Statistics Research

Julian Stander

12:30 – 13:30


14:00 – 15:00

Symmetry in Geometry

Daniel Robertz

15:00 – 16:00

History of Mathematics

Phil Dyke



Friday 7th July




Year 12 presentation to year 10 students

12:30 – 13:30


15:00 – 15:30

Feedback and finish

Jenny Sharp

As well as presentations, the visiting students will work on:

Word Trail Puzzles: create some new word trail puzzles, other students to trial them and offer feedback.

·         Campus Maths Trails: create math trails (Primary and Secondary) around the Campus. Other students to trial them and offer feedback.

·         Feedback Analysis: analyse and prepare a report on the feedback data for the year 5, 7, 8 and 9 masterclasses.

·         Maths Activities: Trial new Maths Activity Boxes, then prepare final resources

·         Code Wheels: Make 150 code wheels

·         Teaching Material: Find new questions for topics in MATH051 book. Wordy, application examples – with full solutions – could make podcast of solution?

Year 12:

·         Presentation: Prepare and present an interactive session for the year 10 students “Why study A level Mathematics?”

·         Teaching Material: Prepare (in Word) an outline of topics in MATH052 based on lecturer’s notes.


Talk at Digital Plymouth conference 2017

There are many software and technology companies in Plymouth and the surrounding areas. Until recently many of the different people involved didn’t know about each other. However, in the last few years there have been some events to coordinate and network.

For example, this year there is a conference called “Digital Plymouth” which brings together people working in various aspects of digital technology. Dr Craig McNeile from CMS is presenting a talk with the title:

High Performance Computing applied to Particle Physics at Plymouth University

Mathematics event at Plymouth

On Friday 23rd June, Dr Jenny Sharpe  organized a mathematics event for over 120 year 9 students from over 40 schools from across Devon and Cornwall.

The students were those who attended the year 9 Ri masterclasses in the spring here at Plymouth, at Truro and at Exeter. There were also students who did not attend the masterclasses but had been invited via UKMT as having done particularly well in the Maths Challenge. They are split into small groups and do a number of activities during the day.

Matthew Craven, Yinghui Wei and Julian Sanders ran one hour sessions for the visiting students. Sessions were also run by Keith Gadd, Kerry Burnham from Exeter Maths School, Sam Durbin from the Royal Institution and Margaret Harding from the Further Maths Support Programme.

At the end of the day, there were two plenary lectures by Jeff Ralph from the Royal Statistical Society and Sam Durban – Royal Institution of Great Britain.

Jeff Ralph is the  RSS William Guy Lecturer for 2017-2018. Dr Jeff Ralph is a senior methodologist at the Office for National Statistics (ONS).His talk was ’Society and Teenagers: How statistics reveal the changes in young people’s lives through the last century‘, which explores the way analysis of our daily lives provides insights into how society has changed, and is changing for young people. This includes the role that official statistics play in understanding what we buy, how we are educated and how long we live.



Lectures at summer school about “Extreme Light Infrasructure”,

Dr Anton Ilderton will be lecturing at “ELISS 2017“, the summer school of the EU’s “Extreme Light Infrasructure”, a multi-national initiative in next generation lasers. The aims of the school, which will be held in Cheile Gradisei, Romania, in August, is to introduce PhD students and postdocs to the exciting area of intense laser-matter interactions. Anton will be lecturing on “light by light scattering and vacuum birefringence”; these are hithertoo unobserved quantum processes in which the theoretical physics group at Plymouth have world-leading expertise. Anton will be talking both about the theory underlying light by light scattering and also prospects for observing the process at the Extreme Light Infrastructure.”

Anton’s lectures will be based on the following papers: