Dr Mason Porter’s Work on Network Mathematics the Subject of Oxford University Impact Video

7th August 2013

Dr Mason Porter’s outreach activities, jointly with several of his students and collaborators, on Network Mathematics are the subject of a University of Oxford impact video. As one student said, “We learnt about maths – that it’s not just numbers and stuff – it’s all in day-to-day life as well.”

The outreach efforts of Dr Mason Porter, Fellow and Tutor in Applied Mathematics at Somerville College, has been made the subject of an Impact Video as part of a series of mini-documentaries that illustrate the importance of Oxford academics’ research to society. In their series of outreach workshops, which took place during the last two academic years and are continuing this fall, Dr Porter and his team explore the ubiquity of mathematics (and ‘networks’ in particular) in everyday lives. Their key hope is that this will inspire students to see Mathematics as an exciting subject that is also relevant to daily experience. The workshops were designed to encourage students to experience a different side of mathematics, take their studies of mathematics further, and aim for the top – including Oxford. The workshops were developed and run by Dr Porter together with a mixture of Oxford postgraduate students, visitors to Dr Porter’s research group, and colleagues from Imperial College, London.

Dr Porter says of the events: “I am passionate about trying to get more people to study mathematics, and workshops like this are about showing students that mathematics is around them everywhere: in their social networks, when they search on Google, when they travel, and in the spread of information and diseases. The world really is a lot smaller than we think, and once people understand how networks work, they can see them everywhere, and I hope to inspire them in this way. ”

“Mathematics is a wonderful subject, and I don’t want students to be put off from the subject early on because they see it as dry and irrelevant to their own lives. These sessions are about conveying the excitement of mathematics by relating it to the students’ own experiences. We want the students to be inspired by mathematics and to continue pursuing it for their whole lives – whether through its study, the study of other scientific topics, or even just an understanding and appreciation of its ubiquity.”

Puck Rombach, a doctoral student in Mathematics at Somerville who has been helping to run the workshops, says that she has always been keen to promote mathematics to secondary school students, as the subject at university is different from the way it is taught in schools. “It is a very rewarding experience when I can see my enthusiasm for the subject rub off on a group of teenagers, and to hear that some of them – who previously hadn’t done so – are now considering mathematics, at Oxford or elsewhere, as an option for their future studies.”

Click Here to Watch Impact Video on the Mathematics of Networks

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