Coombe Dean Comprehensive, Elburton, Devon
Greenwich University (Maths, Stats and Computing) – I hated stats but had never done any before university + Manchester Metropolitan (PhD on blast wave interaction with buildings)
one year as a scientific student assistant at UKAERE Harwell, then more than 20 years at MMU and Edinburgh as a lecturer and now a professor
Professor of Computational Fluid Dynamics
Favourite thing to do in my job: Building computer models on very big computers!
I try to understand the interaction of waves and tidal currents with electricity generation machines.
My work is all about using the energy in waves and tidal currents to generate electricity. The United Kingdom has one of the best climates for wave energy in the world and some of the fastest flowing tides (Only the Bay of Fundi in Canada is more energetic).
The first ideas about how to do this were discussed 40 years ago and now we have machines in the water, to find out a little more you can see some films I’ve made with Lesley Riddoch (who is a Journalist) on you-tube.
This is one of the films for young people, funded by the EPSRC. We have also made a number of films for a more general audience for a European Project you can see these at http://www.youtube.com/user/EquimarVid
I work to try to understand how waves and tidal currents will interact with machines and we use computer models because it’s very difficult to take measurements in the sea. I work closely with experimentalists who do tests in wave tanks and basins and with environmental scientists. Its a lot of fun.
My Typical Day
I spend some time teaching undergraduate students, some supervising post-graduate and post-doctoral researchers, some managing large research projects and some time working on my computer with models.
What I'd do with the prize money
go and see a colleague in Japan to help with work on tsunami prediction
How would you describe yourself in 3 words?
Enquiring Untidy Cyclist
What's the best thing you've done in your career?
I did some modelling work on glass breaking in explosions, my supervisor didn’t believe the results and then the IRA did an experiment for me in Manchester!
Were you ever in trouble at school?
Who is your favourite singer or band?
What is the most fun thing you've done?
If you had 3 wishes for yourself what would they be? - be honest!
A big computer, plenty of time to have fun with it, more time to travel.
Tell us a joke.
There are not many jokes involving Mathematicians, like me but here goes… The offices of a mathematician, a physicist and an engineer catch fire. The engineer grabs a fire axe goes up onto the roof and smashes the cold water tank – flooding his office and putting the fire out. The physicist estimates the growth rate of the fire, grabs the wast paper bin – fills it with water and throws it on the fire putting it out. The mathematician patiently calculates the growth rate of the fire – accounting for the time spent doing the calculation, fils his wast paper bin 96.543% full with water and exactly cancels out the fire. A week later the offices catch fire again! The engineer and the physicist throw a bin full of water on the fire and put it out. The mathematician sits at his desk and waits for the fire brigade. After he’s been rescued the fireman asks why he did not fight the fire “Oh well” he says “I solved that problem last week” :-)