OUASSA Applied Mathematics and Statistics projects

What is Applied Mathematics and Statistics?

Applied statistics and mathematics focusses on studying practical problems from the real world. The problems could be from the worlds of engineering, physics, chemistry, economics, biology, medicine, social, or political studies … you name it!

The key step in applying mathematics or statistics to real life phenomena is the process of modelling: where models could be based on equations, or random variables, or even algorithms. Given this wide application it’s not surprising that good modellers are in high demand within industrial and scientific institutions.

We have picked out four projects which give you an introduction to mathematical and statistical modelling as it is carried out in the real world (as opposed to the way it is carried out in textbooks!).

Projects

1) The mathematics of disease. What would happen if a deadly virus broke out? How would it spread? How could we control it? These are key questions of epidemiology, the study of diseases and epidemics, one field in which mathematical and statistical models have made a huge impact. We will use the movie Contagion to explore mathematical models of disease, and how simulation can help us decide on strategies for vaccination and epidemic control.

2) Unravelling networks. The world is connected, and networks are the study of those connections, from Facebook friends to collaboration links. Networks are now used to describe, and study, a whole range of social and scientific phenomena. We will explore how networks are used, and then start looking at the mathematics of networks: a huge area of modern mathematics which is somehow sidelined in NZ mathematics programs.

3) The statistics of prediction. What can we know about the future? A big challenge of modern statistics is making predictions (sometimes known as predictive analytics). What will the weather be like tomorrow? Should we insure that person, or buy those stocks? When will the next major earthquake hit NZ? Sometimes those predictions fail miserably (think US elections). For this project we will introduce some of the basic tricks of prediction, and some of the ways they can go wrong.