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INI podcast

Launched in March 2019, the INI podcast series aims to highlight the diverse people and explore the many interconnected topics linked to the Institute's activities. Interviewees may range from visiting academics and lecturers to mathematicians, other scientists, and prominent figures within the University of Cambridge and beyond. The podcast typically involves mathematical themes, but is specifically aimed at a general audience. The focus is on the subjects being interviewed and the social stories they have to tell, not just on the significance and details of the research they may be undertaking. We hope there is interest and inspiration here for everyone.

May 2019
> Episode #8: The excitement of interdisciplinary workshops, an interview with Professor Xian Chen
> Episode #7: The realities of academic life and the power of the Kirk Distinguished Visiting Fellowship, an interview with Professor Irene Fonseca

April 2019
> Episode #6: What can the Mathematikum centre teach us about the learning of maths? An interview with Professor Martin Buhmann
> Episode #5Exploring sundials with one of the world's foremost experts, an interview with Dr Frank King

March 2019
> Episode #4Can an early career researcher contribute to a ground-breaking programme? An interview with Henri Elad Altman
> Episode #3Being a young woman in a male-dominated environment, an interview with Susanne Hilger
> Episode #2Can you be a mother of three and a successful academic? An interview with Professor Patricia Goncalvez
> Episode #1Life as Director of the Isaac Newton Institute, an interview with Director David Abrahams


In episode #8 we speak to Professor Xian Chen of the "Mathematical design of new materials" programme. A brief chat recorded in-between seminar talks, subjects touched upon include interactions between the fields of mathematics and mechanics, potential outcomes of such activity and the popularity of interdisciplinary events in general. Hosted by: Dan Aspel (INI Communications Manager).

00:00 – Introductions 
01:00 – Is “The mathematical design of new materials” (DNM) a particularly applied programme? 
02:10 – Interactions between mathematics and mechanics, using maths to predict material behaviours 
03:22 – Potential outcomes from DNM, from scientific to collaborative 
05:00 – What are “new materials”? 
07:00 – Drawing crowds from across Cambridge’s Mathematics campus 
08:40 – Life in Cambridge: surviving the winter months, and attending a programme with a two-year-old daughter

In episode #7 we speak to Professor Irene Fonseca, Director of Carnegie Mellon's Center for Nonlinear Analysis and Kirk Distinguished Visiting Fellow for INI's "Mathematical design of new materials" programme. Subjects touched upon include the power of academic interactions, the obligations placed upon high-achieving female mathematicians, a love of painting and being knighted by the "Military Order of St James of the Sword". Hosted by: Dan Aspel (INI Communications Manager).

00:00 – Introduction and recent activities 
02:35 – Pittsburgh, Portugal and a career overview 
03:40 – The benefits of academic travel 
06:40 – Being President of SIAM, encouraging engagement 
08:10 – The “Mathematical design of new materials” (DNM) programme and the “exceptional” involvement of women 
12:28 – The power of intra- and inter-disciplinary interactions 
15:15 – Exciting research prospects: composite materials and material defects 
18:21 – Feelings about the “Kirk Visiting Distinguished Fellowship” scheme, the “highlighting” of women in mathematics and ways to redress the gender imbalance 
26:05 – Too many obligations can be a burden, but there is always choice 
28:36 – The Kirk Fellowship keynote talk 
32:09 – Surprise #1: before mathematics there was painting 
35:25 - Surprise #2: receiving a knighthood, the “Military Order of St James of the Sword” technically being a “Dame” 

In episode #6 we welcome Professor Martin Buhmann (Giessen) of the "Approximation, sampling and compression in data science" programme to speak about the Giessen-based Mathematikum centre. As co-Director of this central German mathematical science centre he is perfectly placed to discuss public engagement with mathematics, how a more "physical" approach can help capture the imagination of the young and old alike, and how to make learning fun. Hosted by: Dan Aspel (INI Communications Manager).

00:00 – Introduction to Mathematikum and its motto “Hands on, Minds on”
02:05 – How can one tell if the audience are enjoying themselves?
03:40 – Is colour and tactility key to teaching maths to children?
04:25 – “What is mathematics for?”
06:00 – Painting a picture of Mathematikum’s most popular puzzles and activities
07:50 – “Form follows function”
08:42 – Capturing imagination, softly softly
10:15 – Unsolved mathematical problems in a public space (Goldbach Conjecture)
13:00 – Presenting difficult problems in a simple way
16:30 – Working with the "Approximation, sampling and compression in data science" programme at INI

In episode #5 we speak to Dr Frank King (Churchill College) about his recent book "Sundials: Cutting Time", the challenges and mathematics involved in designing such classical timepieces, and whether a young Sir Isaac Newton was himself the creator of a sundial. Hosted by: Dan Aspel (INI Communications Manager).

00:00 – Introduction to Dr Frank King
01:10 – Recent media attention
01:54 – Are sundials dying out?
02:55 – A passion for sundials: an eclectic history of time, religion, society and politics
04:30 – Sundials and the date of Easter
05:52 – The design and manufacture of Dr King’s sundials: from the London Stock Exchange to Pembroke College to “a bent piece of cardboard”
07:15 – Adjusting for leap years
09:46 – Locating a sundial expert…
11:30 – Exploring the mathematics of sundials
14:05 – The challenges of “implementation”
16:40 – Sundial experts across the UK and beyond
17:40 – The sundials of Sir Isaac Newton: fact or fiction?
18:46 – How can we preserve the art of sundials for future generations?


> Episode #4 sees INI catch up with Henri Elad Altman, a PHD student engaged in the SRQ programme. In our short chat we cover the day-to-day realities of participating in an INI programme, what life is like in Cambridge for a visiting researcher and whether it is "intimidating" to work alongside senior colleagues for weeks at a time. Hosted by: Dan Aspel (INI Communications Manager).

00:00 – Introductions
02:12 – All about the SRQ programme
04:40 – Working across mathematical fields, enlarging research perspectives
05:47 – A rare opportunity to work with senior figures…
07:00 - … but an intimidating one too?
08:20 – Working at INI and living in Cambridge
10:05 – The social side of an INI programme


> In episode #3 we chat with PHD student Susanne Hilger about life as a more junior Participant in an INI programme and the issues raised by being a female mathematician in a traditionally male-dominated environment. Hosted by: Dan Aspel (INI Communications Manager).

00:00 – Intro, being a PHD student and an INI programme participant
02:30 – Life working alongside senior academics
03:50 – Explaining her PHD subject
07:40 – Being a women in a male-dominated environment: “I have no role models”
10:00 – Finding support
11:00 – Choosing between an academic career and a family
12:00 – Issues of confidence


In episode #2 we speak to Professor Patricia Goncalvez about the direction her career has taken so far, the challenges in obtaining enough experience to apply for senior positions, and the realities of juggling a growing family alongside growing professional responsibilities. Hosted by: Dan Aspel (INI Communications Manager)

00:00 – Introductions 
04:30 – Choosing between Portugal and the rest of the world 
05:40 – Difficulties with research positions 
06:40 – Becoming pregnant 
07:30 – Finding limited opportunities in Portugal 
08:30 – Making family life work long-distance 
09:30 – Wanting to give up… 
10:45 - … to organising conferences 
12:30 – A growing family 
14:00 – Two jobs come at once 
14:45 – ERC grant award 
17:15 – Juggling academia, family life and parenthood (“my son hates my computer”) 
18:50 – Advice to other women mathematicians: “don’t give up” 


In this inaugural podcast, INI Director David Abrahams speaks about his role at the Institute, reflects on his first two-and-a-half years in the post and looks forward to the remainder of his tenure. Hosted by: Dan Aspel (INI Communications Manager)

00:00 – Introduction 
01:20 – Why did you want to become INI Director? 
02:57 – Highlights of the role so far 
04:55 – Thomas Hales and the Kepler Conjecture 
07:00 – Four Colour Theorem 
09:30 – Bringing key groups together in intra-disciplinary programmes 
11:15 – The frustrations of being away from research, envying sleeping mathematicians 
13:44 – A custodian of mathematics, broadening personal horizons 
15:18 – Carefully managed sparks 
17:30 – The future of the role, expanding the building 
20:00 – The TGM (now Newton Gateway) and knowledge exchange 
22:08 – Cycling chat, “the most exhilarating sport there is”

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