Read about previous experiences of LML Summer School students.
Francis Aznaran – 2017 Summer School Student
Project – Exchange driven growth with a source and sink of particles
I did LML’s summer studentship in 2017, just after graduating from Warwick with a BSc in Mathematics. My project fell broadly within ODE/PDE theory and statistical physics, and in practice involved my favourite topic: numerical analysis. The project was under Colm Connaughton, by chance also of Warwick. We aimed to extend existing work on exchange-driven growth.
Each project was different in aim and style, and some were done in pairs, unlike mine which was individual – so while there was no rigid structure or timetable to the days during the studentship, the regular contact with our supervisors meant that help was always available, and the next step for the project was always clear. My time was mostly spent discussing theory with my supervisor, agreeing what should be done next, and then analysing the results of our simulations. The main intellectual benefit I enjoyed was gaining an understanding of some of the deeper concepts within applied mathematics, and with this in mind, the features of a dataset on which one should (and should not) focus. In coding and running extensive numerical simulations, I also learned about some good software development practices.
I appreciated the collaborative research culture at LML, as we students would discuss the progress of our work and bounce ideas off one another. The supervision style – in particular how we had an LML fellow per one or two of us to talk to throughout the day – combined with the fact that we were working to achieve real and original results, meant that the studentship overall was an ideal mix of intense tutoring and self-directed research. The well-organised and well-funded social events of a barbecue two weeks in and a meal out in Covent Garden on the final day, as well as the office’s pretty environs near Embankment, made for a lovely experience outside of working time too.
Lewis Mead – 2017 Summer School Student
Project – Portfolio Optimisation: Hidden Regularisers in In-built Optimisers
I attended the summer programme at LML in 2017 after completing my Masters degree in Mathematics in the few months before the start of my PhD. The programme seemed like an excellent opportunity to get a taster of life as a researcher before starting for real whilst also serving as a good way of improving my skills in applied mathematics. It was Imre Kondor’s project on portfolio optimisation which stood out to me the most as it was applying techniques I had a theoretical interest in (machine learning) to a real-world context I didn’t really have any background in (finance).
During the month I was able to gain a good understanding of the wider problem, some background to it and also how it was related to a much broader family of optimisation problems. I certainly learnt a lot about a wide range of fields from Imre and enhanced my programming skills in a lot of languages during my time. The culture at LML is incredibly relaxed but studious – it is definitely what you make of it. Perhaps the biggest thing I will take away from my LML experience is the global network of connections made with my fellow students. I’d certainly urge anyone looking to get research experience in a stimulating environment to apply!
Feiyi Liu – 2017 Summer School Student
Project – Portfolio optimization under various constraints
As a first year PhD student at Central China Normal University, I have benefited a lot from LML summer school. I was just starting to do research with Prof. Gabor Papp, whose cooperator is Prof. Imre Kondor (who supervised the project at LML) on finance, but my main direction was particle physics. Gabor introduced me to this summer school as a pre-training. Although the time is tense as I came back to China from Israel at early July, I decided to attend this summer school to learn more about portfolio optimization as a new student in finance.
LML summer school is an unique experience during my research life. My supervisor, Imre Kondor, is a very kind and experienced professor, who taught me so much knowledge on finance and how to do research on this direction. As an analytical researcher in our lab in China, I was not so familiar with programming works of this project and finished them as necessary tasks rigidly at first days in LML. But Imre talked with me many times about these works and answered my questions carefully, I started to understand what the theory is and how interesting it is. As time goes by, I enjoyed the works and the time with my colleagues in LML. I’m so happy I could attend the summer school. I will miss the guys here and the daily breaks in the coffee room.
Robin Leach – 2017 Summer School Student
Project – Competing starving foragers
I was a summer school student at LML between the second and third years of my undergraduate maths degree at Oxford. My friend Sheh was a summer student the year before, and highly recommended it to me. Being the youngest and most inexperienced student, I was quite worried about being out of my depth. However, my supervisors (Nick and Isaac) were very friendly and helpful and gave me useful resources to ease me into the project. Throughout the project they mentored me and pointed me in helpful directions, whilst allowing me the freedom to work independently and choose my own path.
I found the project incredibly useful in many respects – I improved my coding and gained a much deeper understanding of maths, in areas in which I was previously relatively ignorant. Even more valuable, however, was the insight I gained into a career path I’d been considering. Whilst the experience obviously had many differences from what someone would experience as a full-time researcher, it gave me my first taste of the uncertainty that comes with working on something that has no well-defined end. There’s few opportunities like this that allow you to work without knowing what will be easy, hard or even possible. What’s more, LML put on various social events including welcome drinks, a barbecue and a dinner so as to make us feel really welcome and help us to get to know each other outside of the project. The overall experience was very enlightening, rewarding and highly enjoyable. I would not hesitate to recommend this program to anyone with an interest in maths, or who is considering a career in academia.
So Nakashima – 2017 Summer School Student
Project – Bayesian Inference for Image Reconstruction
I attended the summer school program during the first year of my Master course. I thought this summer school broadens my mind, and it must be beneficial for my career. I could learn some topics in applied math other than my major. Besides that, it was nice opportunity to communicate students with various backgrounds. Though image reconstruction is not directly related to my major, mathematical biology, I thought techniques I would learn in this summer school might be applicable to this field.
The days in LML were incredibly exciting and fun. Isaac, who supervised our project, was very kind and we discussed the project every day. His advice was precise and to the point. Also, I could cooperate with other participants. Discussion with Hila, who did the same project as me, was fruitful. When confronted problems, we discussed and overcame the problem together.
The atmosphere of LML was wonderful. I could be relaxed and concentrate on my project. I’m so happy to join this summer school.
Laique Merlin Djeutchouang – 2017 Summer School Student
Project – Anthropogenic earthquakes: how strong will they be?
Attending the Summer School program of the London Mathematical Laboratory (LML) is one the most interesting things I have done so far in preparation for my scientific career. I am a statistician, and also a mathematical scientist graduated from the African Institute for Mathematical Sciences (AIMS), centre of Tanzania. As a trained mathematical scientist and statistician, I became interested in developing mathematical and statistical methods that utilize large amounts of data to contribute in solving real world problems, especially the environmental related ones such as earthquakes, atmospheric and oceanic drivers of the climate variability. Thus Extreme Value Theory (EVT) has become for me one of the most exciting areas of statistics, because of its ability to model extreme and rare events risk control that the occurrences are uncommon, yet have calamitous impact such as earthquakes, increase in sea levels, extreme rainfall and flooding. Moreover, EVT is one of the key research areas at LML.
In search of an opportunity of doing a PhD that involves the use of mathematical and statistical sciences to contribute to the social, academic, economic and environmental improvement of the community, I began getting involved in researches in mathematically and statistically inclined area to prepare myself and enhance my research ability and data analysis skills. LML stood out with its outstanding research projects for its summer school 2017. All those projects stood out to be what I had to apply for, but because of inclination in using mathematical and statistical sciences to contribute in solving environmental related problems, one of those projects distinguished itself amongst others, by firing me up in a quite unique way: Anthropogenic Earthquakes: how strong will they be?
Under the supervision of Dr. Maximilian Werner and Dr. Nicholas Moloney, both fellows of LML, by working on this project I gained in knowledge more than I could expect. I have learned a lot from their research experience, especially during our meeting to discuss a way forward at any time I got stuck somewhere and could not move forward by myself. I liked the combined skills of our team of three. During the summer school I accumulated knowledge in theoretical concepts, applications and coding, which are extremely needed for any scientific career. During LML summer school, I liked the fact that the fellows were very friendly and always willing to assist and very flexible in meeting to help students. I have experienced that LML is not only about research. It also brings together young talented scientists from over the world that socialize and share their experience in a unique environment. I am taking this opportunity to express my happiness and gratitude to the LML office manager, Chloe Scragg, for her amazing support through social events, but not limited to. I am happy to be a reference to LML, as an LML Summer School alumnus, and I am happily sharing my experience to my colleagues and friends. Definitively, all this makes LML the right choice for any young mathematical scientist that wants to enhance his/her research competence for his/her scientific career.
Alex Christensen – 2016 Summer School Student
Project – Improving earthquake forecasts with machine learning
While completing a Masters degree in Mathematics at Warwick University, I realised I wanted to give myself some time after graduation to decide whether or not I wanted to pursue doctoral studies. With this in mind, I began searching for opportunities to engage in research in a mathematically inclined field that summer. I was expecting that a summertime stint as a researcher would give me some insight into what a PhD might be like, and that it would add something distinctive to my academic profile as a recent graduate. The LML summer school stood out immediately and in fact I was so interested by the proposed projects that I applied for three of them in total. I was ultimately accepted for Dr Max Werner’s project on earthquake forecasting.
It would be difficult for me to exaggerate how much of a success the summer school turned out to be for me. The project itself was deeply interesting, in the end we diverged somewhat from the initial goal of applying machine learning techniques to combine earthquake forecasts, and ended up taking a mostly Bayesian approach instead. In the process I not only learned a great deal about earthquake science, but also augmented my knowledge of statistics and generally learned much which I believe will be transferable to my future academic work.The culture at the LML is studious but comradely, and I thoroughly enjoyed working in close proximity to the other students on such a multidisciplinary variety of projects!
Following on from the success of my summer school project, Dr Werner and I have continued working together with funding support from the LML. We have moved on to investigating the statistical tests used to evaluate earthquake forecasts, and probing some of the assumptions that are made in applying these tests. This extended period of research helped me to realise that PhD study is precisely what I wish to move on to, and I believe that my time at the LML has been a major contributing factor to my success in applying for PhDs. Ultimately the LML is a fundamentally unique research institute, and I would urge anyone with a quantitative background to jump at the opportunity to work here!
Angad Yuvraj Singh – 2016 Summer School Student
Project – Fluctuations in growth processes
I attended the summer program a year after completing my masters. For me, the school happened at the right time as it affirmed my interest in applied mathematics, particularly stochastic processes, and motivated me to take up research in interdisciplinary science
From modeling the problem and performing numerical experiments to holding discussions on the results with my supervisors, Alex Adamou and Ole Peters, it was an important learning experience. Moreover the environment, the office placed in the heart of the city next to the beautiful Victoria Embankment Gardens, further enriched my stay as the garden comes to life owing to the Northbank Summer Festival.
I am a physics PhD student at Tel Aviv University and in my studies I use methods from statistical mechanics to address questions in economics. I was a 2015 summer school student at LML and it was definitely one of the best experiences I had during my PhD studies. I heard about the summer school by chance, when I was looking for interesting opportunities in London. This option immediately stood out, as it offered great research problems, which overlapped with my own research interests. I really enjoyed the time at LML and fortunately, the small project I was working on during the summer school evolved into a very successful one. I continued working on it with two of the LML fellows for the past 18 months and planning to continue
LML is a unique research institute and I highly recommend any graduate student in physics, math or other relevant fields, to apply for the summer school. Good luck!
I found out about the summer school through one of my professors in Warwick University, Colm Connaughton, where I was pursuing my degree in Complexity Science. I was fascinated by the prospect of joining the summer school and I decided to apply for the project ‘Stochastic wealth processes and critical taxation’.
The reason why I decided to apply for the specific topic was because I believe that Economy is an evolving complex system and therefore empirical investigation can contribute to recognise possible emergent patterns related to the distribution of wealth. Especially coming from Greece, where the economical crisis has resulted into socioeconomic challenges, I was very interested into gaining a further understanding of the economic phenomena.
It was a great overall experience, since during the project I had the chance to interact with fellow researchers, strengthen my ability to handle projects and gain a deeper understanding of the evolution of wealth, which was a field that I was not familiar with. Moreover being a part of the summer school gave me the opportunity to see various kinds of projects in different fields and broaden my knowledge.
As a philosophy student, the LML summer school was a great chance to meet people from different disciplines and to gain insights from them than I might not have in a philosophy environment. The experience itself was great: great work space in a great location with great people. What’s more, the summer school often extends to further research collaboration with the LML. But if nothing else, apply for the delicious final dinner and the barbecue afternoons!
The main reason I applied for the Summer School was because I wanted to gain more research experience. Although I had done projects during my training, the project at LML was different because it was shorter and more focused. It was a challenge to start working on a subject and see how much I could get out during four weeks. Besides that, the topic of the project was one that really interested me and I was keen to spend some time in London. I learned about the summer school via the mailing list of our department at Warwick University, where I was finishing a Master’s in Complex Systems Science at the time.
The experience was very positive. The accommodation provided by LML was great and we had a nice welcome. Everything was extremely well organized in my opinion! From a scientific point of view my project was very inspiring. I studied a large set of satellite data to extract information about correlations in time and space of the planetary albedo. I had experience in mathematical modeling and statistics, but this was the first time I analyzed such a large dataset. I learned a lot, while at the same time I felt I could apply skills I already had. Discussions with Ole (who supervised the project) were always useful and I never ran out of things to investigate.
In one month I was able to explore the issue and obtain some preliminary results. These were already interesting and showed a lot of potential for further investigation. In this sense the one-month project did not quite give a rounded-up report that contained everything. This is of course not to be expected from a research project – the most exciting ones continuously give rise to new questions! After the summer school I started teaching, which I did for a year, and now I am working as a PhD researcher at KU Leuven, Belgium. I believe the summer school was a great addition to my CV which helped in obtaining my current position. It was also nice to work on a research project outside of university – motivated only by your own curiosity and not because you need to obtain a certain grade. Additionally I acquired some new scientific skills, got to know something about the topics the other students studied and interacted with different researchers. For these reasons I am very happy I participated in the summer school.
Something about the project itself
In my project I investigated a dataset of planetary albedo. The albedo of an object measures the amount of energy it reflects. On Earth, things like snow and clouds have a high albedo while darker regions such as oceans and forests have a low albedo and tend to absorb energy from the Sun. The albedo plays a large role in the regulation of the climate and is influence by many different factors. The albedo of the Earth varies around a value of about 0.3. The aim of our project was to investigate the fluctuations in the albedo of Earth, and in particular to study on which time and length scales the albedo can be modeled as a random variable. This is an interesting question from both a theoretical and practical viewpoint: if we can model something as a random variable, we can forget about its history and the underlying processes that contribute to its behavior. The modeling thus becomes easier. This question was investigated using a set of satellite data, which contained daily albedo values of pixels on the planet over 15 years. This dataset was freely available for download. I analyzed this using Python and CDO, software which is also freely available. We manipulated the data and computed spatial and temporal correlations. Some results seemed immediately logical: we obtained typical length and time scales on which the albedo becomes independent (see Figure 1). Other results were surprising: by using different statistical measures, we found hints of long-range interactions and noticed spatial structure in the distribution of the albedo (Figure 2).
Figure 1: Spatial autocorrelation functions for a few gridpoints. The correlation of the albedo at two gridpoints decreases exponentially with distance. From this we could extract at typical spatial correlation length.
Henry Kenlay – 2015 Summer School Student
Project – Signal-to-noise for neurosurgical trials
Between finishing my undergraduate studies and starting my postgraduate studies I was fortunate enough to be a student of LML. Under the supervision of Alex Adamou and Erlick Pereira we focused on a medically motivated project involving time series analysis.
My experience was very positive, Alex had a lot of time for me and was an encouraging, knowledgeable and helpful teacher and Erlick’s medical expertise was very useful in guiding our research direction. It was great to be surrounded by so many brilliant people, fellows and interns alike. It was my first experience of real mathematical research and has been a driving force in my decision to pursue further education. I would highly recommend the LML summer school for students considering a career involving mathematics, its a very fun and educational experience.
Sheheryar Zaidi – 2016 Summer School Student
Project – De-pegging risk
My name is Sheheryar Zaidi, and I am a Mathematics student at Oxford University. I participated in the LML Summer School in July-August 2016, where I worked with Ole Peters and Alex Adamou on a project aimed at understanding the risk embedded in currency pegs.
I found out about LML’s Summer School through the Mathematical Institute in Oxford. Upon reading about the projects offered that year, I decided to apply for the De-pegging Risk project because I am interested in applications of mathematics to economics and finance. Although I was a first year student at the time, Ole and Alex were excellent supervisors who provided me with the material to learn the mathematics I was unfamiliar with. We often had discussions where they thoroughly answered my questions and occasionally even discussed their own research, which was immensely helpful and interesting.
Following the Summer School, I applied for internships at multiple banks where having been at LML helped me significantly during the recruitment processes. More importantly, not only did I learn a great deal in the four weeks, I had an incredibly enjoyable time. All in all, it was an excellent experience participating in the LML Summer School, and it continues to help me in my studies and career.