University of Bristol: University of Bristol scientist strikes Gold for mathematical display in Parliament

Dr Tointon of Bristol’s School of Mathematics presented his research to dozens of politicians and a panel of expert judges, as part of the poster competition STEM for BRITAIN.

His research, which focuses on “probability on finite transitive graphs”, was judged against 19 other shortlisted researchers’ work and emerged as one of the three winners.

Dr Tointon said: “It feels fantastic, I have to say. I really enjoyed coming here. It’s very easy to imagine, as a mathematician, that your work is just being contained in a theoretical box and only existing for its own sake. Taking part in this competition has made me think harder about how to justify it to a broader group of people, who may not be interested in mathematics just for its beauty.

“I’ve also enjoyed the pleasure of meeting so many people – having not done a lot of that for the last two years due to the pandemic. It was nice to see what others are up to both in and beyond mathematics, and to speak to MPs about research as well.

“Thangam Debbonaire (MP for Bristol West) asked very insightful questions about the work and the posters. It was clear that it wasn’t just a box-ticking exercise, but an opportunity to really think deeply about what was being presented.”

STEM for BRITAIN aims to help politicians understand more about the UK’s thriving science and engineering base and rewards some of the strongest scientific and engineering research being undertaken in the UK.

Stephen Metcalfe MP, Chair of the Parliamentary and Scientific Committee, sponsors of the mathematics awards said: “The Parliamentary and Scientific Committee is delighted to sponsor the mathematics awards. This annual competition is an important date in the parliamentary calendar because it gives MPs an opportunity to speak to a wide range of the country’s best young researchers.

“These early career engineers, mathematicians and scientists are the architects of our future and STEM for BRITAIN is politicians’ best opportunity to meet them and understand their work.”

Prof Paul Glendinning, Director of the Institute of Mathematics and its Applications – speaking on behalf of the Council of the Mathematical Sciences – said: “Maths is really important. It’s the quantitative language of the world. It is important culturally, and it is important economically. According to research from Deloitte, maths is deemed to be responsible for 17% of the UK’s GDP – and that is without counting the value of ‘Big Data’. The privacy of our banking, the integrity of our national security, the innovation of new ideas and greater efficiencies, can all be traced to mathematics. So a great thanks to all of those that took part in this year’s STEM for BRITAIN awards and for showcasing mathematics. It has showed a wonderful diversity of ideas, and just as importantly, a wonderful diversity of people.”

Martin Bridson, President of the Clay Mathematics Institute – which sponsors the Gold award – said: “It gives me enormous pleasure to see the wealth of talent that is on display amongst these posters. It shows the beauty, the power and universality of mathematics. As we all know, scientific ideas have no borders and don’t recognise ethnicities. When a theory is proved, it belongs to the whole of mankind. I’m absolutely delighted at the quality of the work and the young talent on display today.”

The Parliamentary and Scientific Committee runs the event in collaboration with the Royal Academy of Engineering, the Royal Society of Chemistry, the Institute of Physics, the Royal Society of Biology, The Physiological Society and the Council for the Mathematical Sciences, with financial support from Dyson, Clay Mathematics Institute, United Kingdom Research and Innovation, Society of Chemical Industry, the Nutrition Society, Institute of Biomedical Science, the Heilbronn Institute for Mathematical Research, the Biochemical Society and IEEE UK & Ireland Section.

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