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INI podcast

Launched in March 2019, the INI podcast series aims to highlight the diverse people and explore the many interconnected topics linked to the Institute's activities. Interviewees may range from visiting academics and lecturers to mathematicians, other scientists, and prominent figures within the University of Cambridge and beyond. The podcast typically involves mathematical themes, but is specifically aimed at a general audience. The focus is on the subjects being interviewed and the social stories they have to tell, not just on the significance and details of the research they may be undertaking. We hope there is interest and inspiration here for everyone.

To subscribe to the podcast search for "Isaac Newton Institute" on your app of choice or find us on iTunes here.

October 2019
> Episode #18 Peer support and “the ability to develop agency”... an interview with Associate Professor Lesley Ward
> Episode #17 Running the numbers... an interview with Dr Tony Hill

September 2019
> Episode #16 Life in “a harmonic universe”... an interview with Tamara Kokilashvili
> Episode #15 Talking maths in public... an interview with Matt Parker

August 2019
> Episode #14 "A Golden Age of maths communication", an interview with Professor Chris Budd
> Episode #13 When mathematicians meet environmental scientists, an interview with Professor Paula Harrison and Dr Martine Barons
> Episode #12 Investigating the Wiener-Hopf technique, an interview with Dr Anastasia Kisil

July 2019
> Episode #11 Tour de France special: the mathematics of cycling and the mysterious image of David Millar (2012), an interview with Professor David Abrahams

June 2019
> Episode #10: "Bringing the changes we want in Africa", an interview with Dr Bubacarr Bah of the African Institute for Mathematical Sciences
> Episode #9"It's the beauty of the result that drives us... it's pure pleasure", an interview with Professor Svitlana Mayboroda

May 2019
> Episode #8: The excitement of interdisciplinary workshops, an interview with Professor Xian Chen
> Episode #7: The realities of academic life and the power of the Kirk Distinguished Visiting Fellowship, an interview with Professor Irene Fonseca

April 2019
> Episode #6: What can the Mathematikum centre teach us about the learning of maths? An interview with Professor Martin Buhmann
> Episode #5Exploring sundials with one of the world's foremost experts, an interview with Dr Frank King

March 2019
> Episode #4Can an early career researcher contribute to a ground-breaking programme? An interview with Henri Elad Altman
> Episode #3Being a young woman in a male-dominated environment, an interview with Susanne Hilger
> Episode #2Can you be a mother of three and a successful academic? An interview with Professor Patricia Goncalvez
> Episode #1Life as Director of the Isaac Newton Institute, an interview with Director David Abrahams


 

In episode 18 Dan Aspel speaks to Associate Professor Lesley Ward (University of South Australia) about her work within the fields of Complex Analysis and Harmonic Analysis, her experience of working at INI, her feelings upon being awarded the Kirk Distinguished Visiting Fellowship, and the ongoing need for support of women in mathematics if the historical gender imbalance in the science is to be redressed.

00:00 - Introduction
01:00 - Early life in South Australia and the United States
02:50 – Work with Complex Analysis and Harmonic Analysis, theoretical and industry-based
04:18 – lecturing within the INI “Complex Analysis” programme (“there are a lot of questions”)
07:30 – “High level interaction with people of other disciplines”
10:35 – Feelings on receiving the Kirk Distinguished Visiting Fellowship
12:15 – Peer support groups for women in maths (“just feeling that you’re not alone is helpful”)
13:35 – “There was no ‘existence proof’ that one could become an academic mathematician and a woman at the same time. We had literally never seen that”
15:10 – Advice for operating support groups: “the ability to develop agency”
17:20 – Overcoming Imposter Syndrome
19:45 – The ongoing challenges for underrepresented groups
22:27 – The experience of living in Cambridge and working at INI

[View Associate Professor Lesley Ward’s Kirk lecture here]

In episode 17, Dan Aspel speaks to Dr Tony Hill (King's College London) about his life within mathematics so far and how a devotion to long-distance running has played, and continues to play, its part in that journey.

00:00 – Introduction: “an imposter at INI”?
03:20 – Attending an INI workshop on the Weiner-Hopf technique
05:55 – Charity work: raising funds for the families of terminally ill children
07:00 – A history of running and walking, from athletics tracks to ridgeways
10:20 – The link between exercise and the thought process, “your mind becomes free of all the day–to-day distractions”
12:20 – Memory and place, entwined
14:50 – Plans for the future

In episode #16 of the podcast, Dan Aspel speaks to Georgian pianist Tamara Kokilashvili who has performed celebrated classical recitals across the world from Tbilisi to Vienna and New York. Tamara's husband Professor Lasha Ephremidze was a participant in the 2019 "Wiener-Hopf" programme, but her connections to the world of mathematics run deeper than that having played a key part in her upbringing and continuing to inform and enrich her love of patterns within music.

[introductory and outro music taken from a performance by Tamara at Corpus Christie College, Cambridge, August 2019]

00:00 – Introductory music
02:11 – Growing up in a family of musical mathematicians, “a harmonic universe”
03:42 – Life in Georgia, turning to ballet, concerts and the piano
06:56 – Playing music for mathematicians, “they understand music best”
11:21 – Explaining a love of the piano and music in general
13:46 – Performing in Corpus Christi chapel in Cambridge, “this legendary place”
16:19 – Outro music

In the quickfire episode #15, Dan Aspel catches up with maths communicator Matt Parker (standupmaths.com). Topics touched upon include the "Talking Maths in Public" conference - which Matt presented at INI in August 2019 - the surge of maths communicators in the past decade, a career than ranges from authoring books to concocting YouTube videos to performing at the Edinburgh Fringe, to the essential need for "infectious enthusiasm".

00:00 – Introductions
00:40 – “Talking Maths in Public” conference
01:45 – The growth of the maths communication community in the UK (“buzzing and varied”)
03:48 – Maths “needs a lot of good PR… it’s a *lot* more interesting than people appreciate”
05:38 – Favourite part(s) of being a maths communicator
07:15 –YouTube, impact and conveying the excitement of doing maths
09:13 – Energy as currency, the value of enthusiasm

In episode #14 Dan Aspel speaks to Professor Chris Budd (Bath), a participant in two 2019 programmes/workshops ("Geometry, compatibility and structure preservation in computational differential equations", "Mathematical and statistical challenges in landscape decision making") as well as a host of others since the Institute's inception in 1992. Subjects touched upon include maths communication, the mathematics of weather forecasts and the nature of collaboration at the Institute. 

01:10 – Associations with Cambridge and the Institute 
02:48 – Geometic Integration 
03:30 – Collaborating over a sustained period of time at INI 
04:25 – Highlights from a lifetime of attendances at INI programmes 
07:25 – Interests in computational mathematics and environmental science 
09:38 – The public impact, the (extensive) mathematics of meteorology, interactions with the Met Office 
10:45 – “A billion unknowns” in a weather forecast 
13:08 – “A golden age of maths communication” 
15:25 – Visiting the Fields Institute, return trips to INI

In episode #13 we sit down with Professor Paula Harrison (Centre for Ecology and Hydrology, above centre) and Dr Martine Barons (Warwick, above right) to discuss the motivations and theme of the "Mathematical and statistical challenges in landscape decision making" programme. At its heart is a great collaboration between (amongst others) mathematicians and environmental scientists. Hosted by: Dan Aspel (INI Communications Manager)

00:00 – Introductions, backgrounds and motivations 
03:20 – Purpose of the EBD programme, interactions between mathematicians and environmental scientists 
06:18 – How should the UK landscape be managed? 
11:08 – Managing many stakeholders in the management of landscape 
12:40 – Predicting and modelling human decision making 
16:20 – Collaborative working in diverse groups 
19:45 – Chalk board chat 
20:50 – Ideal impacts from the programme

In episode #12 of the podcast, we speak to Dr Anastasia Kisil (Cambridge), co-organiser of the "Bringing pure and applied analysis together via the Wiener-Hopf technique, its generalisations and applications" programme. Subjects touched upon include the realities of organising such a programme at the Isaac Newton Institute, whether this is more or less challenging at an early career stage, and what its outcomes could mean for the future of the Wiener-Hopf technique as a whole. Hosted by: Dan Aspel (INI Communications Manager)

00:50 – The purpose of the WHT programme 
01:51 – Personal history and role at Cambridge University
02:49 – Organising a programme at an early stage in an academic career 
03:30 – The experience of populating an INI programme 
04:45 – Working with INI Director David Abrahams 
05:45 – The Wiener-Hopf technique and its Cambridge community 
06:52 – The future of the Wiener-Hopf technique 
08:09 – Ideal outcomes from the programme 
09:10 – Exciting collaborations ahead 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

As the Tour de France 2019 enters its final stages, episode #11 sees Dan Aspel sit down with lifelong cycling fan (and INI Director) Professor David Abrahams to exchange various informed (David) and uninformed (Dan) opinions on this year's race, a little about the mathematical beauty of cycling, and the fascinating quirks of photography and physics that led to one of the strangest finish line images you're ever likely to see. 

00:00 - Introduction 
02:58 – A love of the Tour de France 
05:20 – Predictions for this year’s winner, general chat about the competition 
11:42 – The mathematics of cycling: friction, resistance, noise, fluid dynamics… fairings? 
17:24 – The mysterious image of David Millar, explained 
24:10 – The “sensation” of cycling, going beyond man’s capabilities 
26:35 – (Un)informed guesses about what lies ahead

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In episode #10 Dr Bubacarr Bah of the African Institute for Mathematical Sciences in Cape Town shares with us his thoughts on compressive sampling and its relevance for the "Approximation, sampling and compression in data science" programme, details his role within AIMS and talks us through the important work the Institute does in providing opportunities and teaching to talented mathematicians from across the African continent. Hosted by: Dan Aspel (INI Communications Manager).

00:00 – Introductions 
00:54 – Compressive sampling and interactions within the ASC programme 
01:51 – Discussing the African Institute for Mathematical Sciences (AIMS) centres in South Africa, Rwanda, Ghana, Cameroon and Senegal 
04:18 – Opportunities for young mathematicians from all over Africa 
06:18 – A role within the Cape Town research centre, a Chair funded by the Humboldt Centre 
07:36 – Funding and support from across the world 
10:04 – Making quick progress with students who are “hungry for learning” 
11:14 – Teaching all over Africa, witnessing the enthusiasm for data science 
12:44 – Building cultural bridges across the continent 
13:44 – The financial challenges for African researchers 
15:14 – Growing up: The Gambia, mathematics, teaching, Edinburgh 
17:59 – Always more to do but “hopefully things will grow, and we’ll bring the changes we want in Africa”.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In episode #9 the podcast welcomes Professor Svitlana Mayboroda. The Kirk Distinguished Visiting Fellow for the "Approximation, sampling and compression in data science" programme, Svitlana talks us through a brief history of her career, her specialism in harmonic analysis, a love of mathematics for its own sake and the research aims that she and her collaborators are working towards during their time at INI. Hosted by: Dan Aspel (INI Communications Manager).

00:00 – Introductions 
01:43 – Early career decision points and working in the USA 
03:08 – Growing up in Ukraine and the career options that lay ahead 
03:50 – Looking at the ASC programme and its research aims 
06:00 – The draw of harmonic analysis 
07:30 – Collaborations between physicists and mathematicians 
10:45 – Applications aplenty, but “the mathematics still drives me” 
12:40 – Receiving the Kirk Fellowship (https://www.newton.ac.uk/about/fellowships/kirk): is it a “good thing”? 
17:55 – Summer travels and academic visits 
18:56 – In praise of the Isaac Newton Institute, “the primary way for mathematicians to collaborate” 

In episode #8 we speak to Professor Xian Chen of the "Mathematical design of new materials" programme. A brief chat recorded in-between seminar talks, subjects touched upon include interactions between the fields of mathematics and mechanics, potential outcomes of such activity and the popularity of interdisciplinary events in general. Hosted by: Dan Aspel (INI Communications Manager).

00:00 – Introductions 
01:00 – Is “The mathematical design of new materials” (DNM) a particularly applied programme? 
02:10 – Interactions between mathematics and mechanics, using maths to predict material behaviours 
03:22 – Potential outcomes from DNM, from scientific to collaborative 
05:00 – What are “new materials”? 
07:00 – Drawing crowds from across Cambridge’s Mathematics campus 
08:40 – Life in Cambridge: surviving the winter months, and attending a programme with a two-year-old daughter

In episode #7 we speak to Professor Irene Fonseca, Director of Carnegie Mellon's Center for Nonlinear Analysis and Kirk Distinguished Visiting Fellow for INI's "Mathematical design of new materials" programme. Subjects touched upon include the power of academic interactions, the obligations placed upon high-achieving female mathematicians, a love of painting and being knighted by the "Military Order of St James of the Sword". Hosted by: Dan Aspel (INI Communications Manager).

00:00 – Introduction and recent activities 
02:35 – Pittsburgh, Portugal and a career overview 
03:40 – The benefits of academic travel 
06:40 – Being President of SIAM, encouraging engagement 
08:10 – The “Mathematical design of new materials” (DNM) programme and the “exceptional” involvement of women 
12:28 – The power of intra- and inter-disciplinary interactions 
15:15 – Exciting research prospects: composite materials and material defects 
18:21 – Feelings about the “Kirk Visiting Distinguished Fellowship” scheme, the “highlighting” of women in mathematics and ways to redress the gender imbalance 
26:05 – Too many obligations can be a burden, but there is always choice 
28:36 – The Kirk Fellowship keynote talk 
32:09 – Surprise #1: before mathematics there was painting 
35:25 - Surprise #2: receiving a knighthood, the “Military Order of St James of the Sword” technically being a “Dame” 

In episode #6 we welcome Professor Martin Buhmann (Giessen) of the "Approximation, sampling and compression in data science" programme to speak about the Giessen-based Mathematikum centre. As co-Director of this central German mathematical science centre he is perfectly placed to discuss public engagement with mathematics, how a more "physical" approach can help capture the imagination of the young and old alike, and how to make learning fun. Hosted by: Dan Aspel (INI Communications Manager).

00:00 – Introduction to Mathematikum and its motto “Hands on, Minds on”
02:05 – How can one tell if the audience are enjoying themselves?
03:40 – Is colour and tactility key to teaching maths to children?
04:25 – “What is mathematics for?”
06:00 – Painting a picture of Mathematikum’s most popular puzzles and activities
07:50 – “Form follows function”
08:42 – Capturing imagination, softly softly
10:15 – Unsolved mathematical problems in a public space (Goldbach Conjecture)
13:00 – Presenting difficult problems in a simple way
16:30 – Working with the "Approximation, sampling and compression in data science" programme at INI

In episode #5 we speak to Dr Frank King (Churchill College) about his recent book "Sundials: Cutting Time", the challenges and mathematics involved in designing such classical timepieces, and whether a young Sir Isaac Newton was himself the creator of a sundial. Hosted by: Dan Aspel (INI Communications Manager).

00:00 – Introduction to Dr Frank King
01:10 – Recent media attention
01:54 – Are sundials dying out?
02:55 – A passion for sundials: an eclectic history of time, religion, society and politics
04:30 – Sundials and the date of Easter
05:52 – The design and manufacture of Dr King’s sundials: from the London Stock Exchange to Pembroke College to “a bent piece of cardboard”
07:15 – Adjusting for leap years
09:46 – Locating a sundial expert…
11:30 – Exploring the mathematics of sundials
14:05 – The challenges of “implementation”
16:40 – Sundial experts across the UK and beyond
17:40 – The sundials of Sir Isaac Newton: fact or fiction?
18:46 – How can we preserve the art of sundials for future generations?


> Episode #4 sees INI catch up with Henri Elad Altman, a PHD student engaged in the SRQ programme. In our short chat we cover the day-to-day realities of participating in an INI programme, what life is like in Cambridge for a visiting researcher and whether it is "intimidating" to work alongside senior colleagues for weeks at a time. Hosted by: Dan Aspel (INI Communications Manager).

00:00 – Introductions
02:12 – All about the SRQ programme
04:40 – Working across mathematical fields, enlarging research perspectives
05:47 – A rare opportunity to work with senior figures…
07:00 - … but an intimidating one too?
08:20 – Working at INI and living in Cambridge
10:05 – The social side of an INI programme


> In episode #3 we chat with PHD student Susanne Hilger about life as a more junior Participant in an INI programme and the issues raised by being a female mathematician in a traditionally male-dominated environment. Hosted by: Dan Aspel (INI Communications Manager).

00:00 – Intro, being a PHD student and an INI programme participant
02:30 – Life working alongside senior academics
03:50 – Explaining her PHD subject
07:40 – Being a women in a male-dominated environment: “I have no role models”
10:00 – Finding support
11:00 – Choosing between an academic career and a family
12:00 – Issues of confidence


In episode #2 we speak to Professor Patricia Goncalvez about the direction her career has taken so far, the challenges in obtaining enough experience to apply for senior positions, and the realities of juggling a growing family alongside growing professional responsibilities. Hosted by: Dan Aspel (INI Communications Manager)

00:00 – Introductions 
04:30 – Choosing between Portugal and the rest of the world 
05:40 – Difficulties with research positions 
06:40 – Becoming pregnant 
07:30 – Finding limited opportunities in Portugal 
08:30 – Making family life work long-distance 
09:30 – Wanting to give up… 
10:45 - … to organising conferences 
12:30 – A growing family 
14:00 – Two jobs come at once 
14:45 – ERC grant award 
17:15 – Juggling academia, family life and parenthood (“my son hates my computer”) 
18:50 – Advice to other women mathematicians: “don’t give up” 


In this inaugural podcast, INI Director David Abrahams speaks about his role at the Institute, reflects on his first two-and-a-half years in the post and looks forward to the remainder of his tenure. Hosted by: Dan Aspel (INI Communications Manager)

00:00 – Introduction 
01:20 – Why did you want to become INI Director? 
02:57 – Highlights of the role so far 
04:55 – Thomas Hales and the Kepler Conjecture 
07:00 – Four Colour Theorem 
09:30 – Bringing key groups together in intra-disciplinary programmes 
11:15 – The frustrations of being away from research, envying sleeping mathematicians 
13:44 – A custodian of mathematics, broadening personal horizons 
15:18 – Carefully managed sparks 
17:30 – The future of the role, expanding the building 
20:00 – The TGM (now Newton Gateway) and knowledge exchange 
22:08 – Cycling chat, “the most exhilarating sport there is”

University of Cambridge Research Councils UK
    Clay Mathematics Institute London Mathematical Society NM Rothschild and Sons