The session began with Prof. Sir Adrian Smith (standing in for an apologetic David Willetts MP). Prof Smith began by saying that David Willetts and the government are well aware of the importance of mathematics and the part it plays in key national and strategic priorities. It was pointed out that whilst maths is becoming a more popular subject to study at university we are still not producing enough graduates to satisfy demand.
Prof. David Spiegelhalter spoke next on his role in educating the public and press in how to use statistics correctly. This was partly based on the recent tabloid headlines concerning scares over red meat. David also talked about the mathematics of risk and how the national risk register has changed to incorporate new risks such as disruption caused by volcanic ash.
Malcolm MacCallum, Director of the Heilbronn Institute in Bristol, gave a fascinating talk about Tutte and Flowers' contribution to the deciphering of messages encrypted by the Tunny machine using Colossus.
After a break for refreshments the session resumed with Deirdre Hollingsworth presenting work on the modelling of epidemics and the use of vaccination. She continued with a mathematical model showing how the use of bed-nets and interior spraying can significantly reduce the spread of malaria amongst children in Africa.
The final talk was from Professor Jared Tanner, who just managed to arrive in time from fog-bound Edinburgh, about the mathematics used to fill in missing data in photographs. He showed how this had implications in tracking movement and taking MRI scans of young children.
The session was summed up by Stephen Timms MP and followed by a short time of discussion during which the following points were raised:
This was a very enjoyable morning that I hope will improve awareness of the need to increase the numbers of undergraduates and post-graduate mathematicians in our universities.