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November 16, 2016

Student, postdoc-led math society hopes to build connections

The Society for Industrial and Applied Mathematics (SIAM) – an international organization focused on building co-operation between mathematics and science and technology – now has a chapter at McMaster University.

SIAM members include graduate students and postdoctoral fellows working in the math and computational science fields. They offer free consulting services to graduate and undergraduate students – help and advice with programming, data analysis, machine learning, numerical analysis, mathematical modelling, and other related areas.SIAM logoMcMaster SIAM chapter vice-president Kiret Dhindsa, PhD candidate in the School of Computational Science and Engineering, hopes that SIAM will encourage collaboration across disciplines and faculties.

Working together

“There are many ways to collaborate which may not be immediately obvious,” Dhindsa says. “Opportunities go beyond being able to help graduate researchers in social sciences and humanities choose tools and methodologies that might be most appropriate for analyzing data they’ve already collected, or being able to help with writing software which can be used for acquiring data.”

He uses an example from his own collaboration with David Harris Smith, assistant professor in Communication Studies and Multimedia. Dhindsa worked on a brain-interface that allows someone wearing a specific headset to manipulate 3D objects through concentration alone.

Another example cited by Dhindsa paired a researcher studying mythology and literature with a computational statistician to map out how myths were adapted over time across different cultures, sometimes tracing them back to symbols found in prehistoric cave paintings.

“There are countless such examples of collaborations between those of us in computational science and applied mathematics and students in fields which, at first, seem completely separate,” he says.

Most campus interactions are likely to be simple discussions about data analysis or programming experiments, but SIAM members hope that more substantial collaborations will arise once students from different departments begin to discuss their work with one another.

Graduate and undergraduate students who believe they may benefit from consulting with a graduate student or postdoc in mathematics or computational science should email SIAM or visit during SIAM’s office hours on Tuesdays, 5 to 6 p.m.