I was an undergraduate at the University of Cambridge, and moved to the University of East Anglia to do an MSc and a PhD. My undergraduate degree is in Mathematics, my MSc is in Theoretical Mechanics, and in my PhD I studied theoretical chemistry, which meant solving nonlinear ordinary and partial differential equations.
When I finished my PhD in 1990, I got a job at Schlumberger Cambridge Research. Schlumberger are an oilfield services company, and I was employed as a Research Scientist to study a variety of topics. Whilst I was there I studied multiphase flow, in particular gas kick control and flow metering, as well as the chemistry of oilwell cement hydration. I stayed there for five years before returning to academia joining the University of Birmingham as a lecturer.
I found life as an industrial scientist a little too much at the mercy of the current oil price, and it was clear that I would have to take on a senior managerial role fairly soon. Fortunately, I’d continued to publish scientific papers, and an old friend of mine encouraged me to apply for a lectureship at the University of Birmingham. I liked the idea of being free to study whatever I wanted and I thought my love of the sound of my own voice would stand me in good stead as a lecturer.
I started at the University of Nottingham in 2003 and am currently a Professor of Theoretical Mechanics, and well as being head of the Industrial and Applied Mathematics Research Group. I teach, which I enjoy, apart from marking exams, and manage my research group, which mainly involves letting them get on with what they’re doing well already, but my main focus is research.
Why I love mathematics
For me, mathematics is the language with which we quantify the real world, and it has always been the development and study of mathematical models that can describe and make a difference to complex industrial and other physical processes that has fascinated me. I enjoy some of the technical aspects too, but I’m not a great one for proving theorems, perhaps to my own disadvantage at times.
I love the freedom of being able to study whatever I want. My colleagues are all very smart and stimulating, and we get pretty good students to work with.
My technical area of expertise is in the numerical and asymptotic solution of nonlinear ordinary and partial differential equations, as well as the creation of mathematical models of the real world. I have a particular interest in free boundary problems in fluid mechanics, particularly those with moving contact lines.
I have a lot of PhD students at the moment, with whom I pursue many different topics, and there are also topics that I study on my own. These include the motion of vibrating fluid droplets, slug formation in stratified pipe flow, oxidation of thermal barrier coatings, crack healing in asphalt, pattern formation in reaction-diffusion equations, energy beam milling processes (particularly laser and abrasive waterjet milling) and waves driven by moving boundaries. All of these have applications in Industry, either direct or indirect.
I have a regular stream of people knocking on my door with interesting problems in engineering and science, and I hope I will continue to be surprised by the range of real world problems that are amenable to mathematical analysis.
Over the last few years I’ve developed an interest in poker, which led me recently to write a book on the subject. I’ve also been teaching myself Game Theory, and have been working in my spare time on a program to solve a large, nontrivial subgame of no limit holdem.
I’m also interested in the dynamics of simple multiplayer poker games, and hope one day to enter a program in the Annual Computer Poker Competition.
My other interests include music (I love progressive rock and metal), sport (I play badminton and used to play a lot of cricket before my knees gave up), I’m a patient and long-suffering Spurs supporter, and I also like to spend time with my family, if only to make sure they’re not doing something they shouldn’t.