A University of Delaware professor and
an alumnus are featured in videos that are part of a national initiative
designed to show undergraduates the kinds of real-world problems that
are being researched and solved by using math.
The initiative, “Preparation for Industrial Careers in Mathematical
Sciences,” is supported by the National Science Foundation (NSF), the
Society for Industrial and Applied Mathematics and the Mathematical
Association of America. It aims to bring real mathematical research
problems from industry to the attention of students, showing them
potential career paths in the field as well as the kind of impact those
careers can have.
A pair of videos for the initiative features Louis Rossi, professor
and chair of the Department of Mathematical Sciences, and Sumanth
Swaminathan, a predictive modeling and
optimization consultant at W.L. Gore and Associates. Swaminathan earned
his bachelor’s degree at UD in chemical engineering and his doctorate in
applied mathematics at Northwestern University.
UD’s mathematical sciences department was “a natural choice for this
sort of venture,” Rossi said of the initiative. “We have strong faculty
working in interdisciplinary applied mathematics and a long history of
engaging with industrial partners.”
For example, he said, the department is one of four key institutions
that regularly host and participate in the Mathematical Problems in
Industry workshop, which is the longest-running math/industry study
group in the United States. This year, the workshop,
sponsored by NSF, met at UD for five days in June, when participants
worked on and discussed problems of interest to science and industry.
The videos are titled “Solving Real World Problems: Building a Better
Filter.” Swaminathan talks about his work in helping Gore optimize the
geometry of the filters the company makes to continually improve them.
Rossi describes how mathematical modeling is especially useful in
solving this type of problem because filtration involves processes that
are difficult to measure directly.
“Building a Better Filter” and other videos in the initiative can be viewed online.
After demonstrating methods of using mathematical modeling to study a
filter’s speed and effectiveness, Rossi encourages students watching
the video to consider what solving this type of problem can mean.
“Not only is this kind of mathematics fun and personally rewarding,
but it has great commercial value,” he says. “And when you think about
the central role that filters play in transportation, health, energy and
communication, this kind of problem has worldwide impact.”