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Six Questions with: Dr Beth Wingate

Six Questions with: Dr Beth Wingate

Beth Wingate is a scientist currently working for the Los Alamos National Laboratory Computer, Computational and Statistical Sciences Division and the Center for Nonlinear Studies. Beth was a visiting fellow on the Multiscale Numerics for the Atmosphere and Ocean programme in 2012.

When did you become first interested in mathematics and what keeps your interest fresh?

I first became interested in mathematics when I realized how it could help me more deeply understand the world around me and could help me make sense of complex problems. Sometime in the late stages of my undergraduate education I became even more interested when I realized it could help me understand physics in more depth.

Could you tell us a little about your career path so far and what your current research involves?

I began my research career in numerical methods and turbulence for aerospace applications like F15 and F18 engine inlets but realized I was more interested in the natural sciences. I then went to the University of Michigan where I studied for my PhD in ocean and atmosphere dynamics and fluid mechanics, theory and numerical methods. After postdocs I took a full time Scientist position at Los Alamos National Laboratory where I still work and where part of my work is to understand ocean processes and to develop mathematical and numerical models. I have been very fortunate to have had intellectual freedom in my work, it has contributed to my creativity.

What achievements are you most proud of?

I don't know the answer to that question -- so many of the papers I've written seem to ask as many questions as they answer.

But the accomplishment I'm most interested in is the separation of time scales paper I wrote last year for the Journal of Fluid Mechanics with Pedro Embid, Miranda Holmes-Cerfon and Mark Taylor [1] since it derives new equations for slow dynamics in regions of the deep Arctic where the stratification is weak. It is an instance where mathematical understanding lead to physical understanding. When I first saw the new equations it was real pleasure. Since then my understanding of other, related problems, falls more easily into place.

How do you achieve a balance between your work and homelife?

In addition to applied mathematics and physics I am also a poet. I manage to balance science work with my poetic interest by writing in the morning. And I'm happy to have a partner who takes an equal interest and responsibility in the quality of our home life.

What advice would you offer to young women who are just starting their careers in the mathematical sciences?

Guard your work time -- be careful of spending time where no one benefits (such as meetings for the sake of meetings).

Choose problems to work on that can be of use -- don't necessarily choose problems just because you are able to do them. Consciously think about which problems you're interested in working on and whose solution is meaningful to you.

Do yourself the favor of believing/knowing that your time is worthwhile. When you sit down to do something be respectful that you're spending this time (of your life) on this subject. Treat others the same way. Take joy with you on the way.

Has your visit to the Newton Institute been fruitful?

Yes. I've been able to try new ideas on new and old colleagues. I've established what I hope will be new collaborations. It has been very fruitful to spend a long stretch of time in once place with like-minded researchers.


[1] B.A. Wingate, P. Embid, M. Holmes-Cerfon, M.A. Taylor (2011). "Low Rossby limiting dynamics for stably stratified flow with finite Froude number" Journal of Fluid Mechanics, 676, 546-571.

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