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REF 2014 Results Announced

The results of the Research Excellence Framework (REF) 2014 were announced just before Christmas and it made very good reading for the University. Cardiff University achieved 5th place in the UK in terms of the grade point average (GPA) of its overall quality profile. Thus a key Way Forward target of being placed in the top ten in the UK in terms of GPA was surpassed. This is great news for all of us.

The School made great improvements on its RAE 2008 performance and we can all be extremely proud of this achievement. In RAE 2008, the School submitted to the Pure Mathematics Unit of Assessment and was ranked joint 32nd out of 38 submissions with a GPA of 2.30. In REF 2014 the School submitted to the Mathematical Sciences Unit of Assessment and was ranked joint 19th out of 53 submissions with a GPA of 3.08 (see table below). 

In RAE 2008 40% of our submission was rated at 4*/3* (world leading/internationally excellent). In REF 2014 this increased to a magnificent 90%. This percentage improvement on RAE 2008 is depicted in the chart below, where the vertical scale represents the percentage of submission for RAE 2008 / REF 2014.
In This Issue

* REF Success for Cardiff

* Python—Namibia Laptop Appeal

* Developing Healthcare Models

* Undergraduate 
Applications Up

* CUROP Report Number 4

* Appointments

* MathSoc Update

* PhD Opportunities

* In Memoriam

* Puzzle Corner

* Featured Talk

* Recent / Forthcoming Events


In fact, in terms of the proportion of our research at 4*/3* we were ranked 9th overall and in terms of the GPA ranking of our outputs we were ranked 14th (see table below).

Research impact was assessed for the first time in REF 2014. The School submitted three impact case studies which were assessed as 4*, 3*, 3*. 

Everyone in the School has contributed to this success. The School will undoubtedly benefit from this result when it is incorporated into the various league tables and together with the tremendous performance by the University should enable us to enhance our recruitment of the best staff and students.

This year we will begin to make plans to build on this result so that the School can continue its upward trajectory to REF 2020, but for now enjoy the success!

Python Namibia Laptop Appeal

Dr Vincent Knight

I (with two of our PhD students: Geraint and Jason) will be travelling to Namibia at the end of the month for a programming conference (more details here: This is part of the Cardiff University Phoenix Project (more details here:

It would be of great benefit to this Namibia conference if you could donate any laptops/computers you might no longer have a need for. Many thanks to those of you who have spoken to me and/or given me some machines. The machine need not be high specification.  If you do have a machine you no longer need please do get in touch and I'll pop by to take it off you :)

Developing Mathematical Models in Healthcare

(by Dr Julie Vile)
Over the last two years, the Healthcare Modelling OR Group has introduced a ‘Developing Mathematical Models in Healthcare’ seminar series which regularly attracts around 50 delegates to the University on a quarterly basis. Alongside academics, the audience typically comprises clinicians, hospital managers, Public Health Wales workers and Welsh Government staff, who come together to debate how OR can be used to help alleviate pressures on the NHS. The seminars generally comprise both local talks from members of the Cardiff OR group and guest speakers from further afield.
The first few seminars were used to introduce the concept of modelling. Since most of the audience are now familiar with this, more recent talks have focussed on case studies examining the role OR can play in designing better services. The last event also included a breakout session in which delegates were asked to think about which modelling methods they thought were the most appropriate to address less well understood healthcare related issues. 

The next event is to be held on from 15:45-18:00 on Thursday 5th February, and will include talks from new members of the Mathematical Modelling Unit team and Dr Christos Vasilakis who is Director of the newly established Bath Centre for Healthcare Innovation and Improvement (CHI2 If you are interested in attending this talk or future seminars, please speak to/email Julie at to receive further information.

UG Maths Applications Up

(by Dr Jonathan Thompson)

The UCAS deadline for undergraduate applications is rapidly approaching and Cardiff School of Mathematics has received  a bumper number of applications this year. Currently applications are up 11.6% on the same point last year for home students and up 111% for International students.

To place these numbers in context, the number of applications to the university as a whole  is down 2.6% and the number to the College of Physical Sciences is down 11.2%. We have scheduled 9 departmental Open Days so far this year, and all are full meaning more open days will be added. These numbers are extremely encouraging and we hope that it leads to a well-qualified intake of bright, enthusiastic students in September 2015. 

CUROP Report

(by Dr Vince Knight)

The fourth in our series of reports on last summers undergraduate research project programs is by Vince 
Knight, who supervised a CUROP project last summer.
Project Title  - Building Game Theoretical Software in a Research Environment

Project Supervisor - Dr Vince Knight  (pictured right).

Project Student - James Campbell

The aim of this project was twofold:

1. Contribute Game Theory code to the open source software package: Sage (

2. Given sufficient time: use the code developed to tackle a research problem.

As has been mentioned in a previous newsletter: this project was a great success!

James started by familiarising himself with the development process of Sage. This included learning modern software development which in particular focussed on being comfortable with git ( and the trac ticketing system. Git is a version control system which allows people all over the world to write code for the same project without stepping on each others toes.
James also had to spend some time getting familiar with the various good practices needed to be able to contribute to Sage. This was a learning experience not just for James but also for me as I had not contributed to Sage before.

One final difficulty that James had to overcome was to learn all the game theoretic components that he was about to code. He did this with ease which might actually help him when he gets to the third year and starts to officially learn Game Theory.

The first contribution tackled by James was to write code to obtain the Shapley value for cooperative games. This was the simplest of the 3 problems tackled and it took James about a week to get something ready to be reviewed (this is actually in the latest release of Sage). If you are interested I have blogged about this area of Game Theory and the code that we wrote here:

With this first bit of work under our belts, we decided to tackle the larger more substantial piece of work: a class for normal form games with the ability to obtain Nash equilibria. This took quite a lot of work as we had to carefully think about the underlying architecture. James wrote two algorithms that interfaced with other libraries (so that they did the heavy lifting). After doing this we thought that it would be worthwhile writing our own algorithm, so James spent a lot of time putting together a support enumeration algorithm. If you are interested I wrote up a description of this here:

That took about 3 or 4 weeks of solid work, at which point I was very confident in James's ability to handle new concepts. Thus, we started looking at a research project of mine and at the same time coding a third and final contribution to Sage. You can read about that final contribution (solving stable marriage problems) here:

The actual research problem we looked at involved solving Normal Form Games (using the code produced above) where the utilities were outputs of Markov models. The motivation for this was to model the interaction between two hospitals.

James started by learning some queueing theory (which will hopefully be relevant for his second year course) and then moved on to the Markov Decision Processes. In particular he wrote some Q-learning algorithms which are a type of artificial intelligence. These algorithms 'learn' from the outcome of any given decision at any given time. They are heuristic in nature in that they won't necessarily give the optimal solution but they will get very close very fast.

James worked tirelessly throughout the placement, putting in a huge amount of effort. This resulted in a ridiculously productive placement: the code developed will all be in the next release of Sage and the research is progressing nicely. Another nice outcome is that James and I were invited to attend the Sage Days (a 3 day conference during which developers meet and work on Sage) in California in March 2015.

New Appointments at Cardiff School of Maths 

Dr Doris A. Behrens
Dr Julie Vile

By the beginning of this year I had the great pleasure to join Cardiff University’s School of Mathematics and the Aneurin Bevan University Health Board as Research Associate.

Since I completed a Ph.D. in OR and Biomathematics quite some years ago within the framework of a project on “Controlling the US Cocaine Epidemic”, health-policy related topics have perpetually played a major role in my research work. For example, until most recently I contributed to the development of robust rules for autonomous task selection within a network of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) delivering pharmaceutical products in rural areas (

My passion certainly is the mathematical modelling of real world problems arising in fields as (illicit) drugs, epidemics, or blood-borne diseases but also (sorry, no one is perfect) the econom(etr)ic modelling of fiscal and monetary policies within economic and monetary unions; all combined with the analysis of appropriate optimal interventions. Methodologically, I worked at the interface of operations research and economics (I have found that speaking the language of “economics” is a real benefit, when it comes to the provision of decision-making support), utilizing optimal control theory, dynamic games, nonlinear dynamical systems, and the toolkit of evolutionary economics. Personally, I love to become acquainted with new perspectives, insights, and people. So I am looking forward to meeting the members of the School in the near future!

MathSoc Update

(by James Ledward)

After a busy term it's time for us to take a month or so off for exams. The committee will be hard at work thinking of innovative new social ideas for the next semester! 

Just a few things for you to know: 

End of year Ball tickets will be going on sale soon! This year the event will be held in Cardiff Museum. More information to follow soon - keep your eyes peeled!

We've extended the deadline for IMA registration. Forms will be available from the School Office or message James (President) for alternative ways of registering.

Thanks to everyone for a great first semester. We've had some great events so far! More to come in the new year!

Happy New Year from all at MathSoc x

PhD Opportunities

(Prospects in Mathematics, UK, 2014-15)

The 8th edition of the Prospects in Mathematics Symposium was held at the Mathematical Institute, University of Oxford, on December 18-19, 2014. The goal of this Symposium series is to introduce potential doctoral students to the wide range of opportunities for research in mathematics at universities across the UK. This year, Dr Angela Mihai of Cardiff School of Mathematics was invited to talk about pursuing a PhD at Cardiff University and to discuss her research interests in the context of the wider UK scientific community. For further details and slides of the talks, please visit the event's webpage

In Memoriam

Dr John Frankland Rigby (Geometer and former Reader in the School of Mathematics; died Monday morning 29th December 2014 at The University Hospital of Wales, after a short illness). More details to appear in the next issue.

Puzzle Corner

This month’s puzzle is a logical teaser set by Dr Rhyd Lewis. The aim is to identify the flaw in the argument below.

Let    a = b    so that a2 = ab. Then adding  a2—2ab to both sides gives us
a2 + a2—2ab = ab + a2—2ab, which simplifies to 2(a2—ab) = a2—ab. Dividing both sides through by a2—ab, we obtain the well known result employed by many marketing departments, that 2=1. A Corollary to this result is that if 1+1=1, then 1+1-1 = 1-1 =0, so in fact 1 = 0, and inductively 1 + 1 + …+ 1=0 + 0 + ….. + 0, from which we deduce that n = 0 = 1, and so the set of all integers consists only of the single element 1 (or indeed the single element n, as n=1 for all integers n). This result hugely simplifies large areas of mathematics and completely negates the problems caused by the prime numbers. .
Answers should be submitted to Matthew Lettington (M/2.50). A prize will be offered for the best correct answer 

Solutions to last months Puzzle Corner

The problem set in the December Newsletter was an extension of the classic Wolf, Goat, Cabbage problem (for a full description of the problem set see the December 2014 newsletter). The seven stage solution is given below:

1. The man takes the goat  and the stick from the West bank of the river to the East.
2. The man crosses the river from East to West.
3. The man takes the wolf and the fire from the West bank of the river to the East.
4. The man takes the goat and the stick from the East bank of the river to the West.
5. The man takes the cabbage from West bank of the river to the East.
6. The man crosses the river from East to West.
7. The man takes the goat and the stick from the West bank of the river to the East. 

Recent and 
Forthcoming Events

Monday 5 January—Friday 9 January 2015 Guided
Study Week.

Wednesday January 7, 2015
Functional Materials Far From Equilibrium (GW4)
Organized by Dr. Nicolas Dirr.  Cardiff will be
hosting the third meeting of the GW4 initiative
‘Functional materials far from equilibrium’.

Thursday 8 January 2015. Prof. Marco Marletta,
Invited Talk, The finite section method for
dissipative Schrödinger and Jacobi operators  
Oberwolfach conference, Spectral Theory and
Weyl Functions, 4—10 January 2015,
Black Forest, Germany

January 8, 2015, The 19th SIAM-UKIE Annual
Meeting, jointly with E. Süli (University of Oxford),
F. Tisseur (University of Manchester), M. Freitag
(University of Bath), University of Bath,

Monday 12 January 2015—Friday 23 January 2015,
Autumn Semester  Examination Period

Wednesday January 15, 2015.  The 3rd SIAM Student
Chapter Day, Cardiff University,  Speakers and talks:
Des Higham (University of Strathclyde) - Twitter
dynamics, Peter Wells (Cardiff University) Towards
better medical ultrasound, Kevin Glazebrook
(University of Lancaster) - A graph patrol problem with
random attack times

Monday 26 January 2015, start of Spring Semester Teaching

Wednesday 28 January 2015, 12.10 : Operational Research and Statistics Seminar: Room: M/0.34, Speaker: Prof. Robert John (Nottingham). Title: TBC.
Tuesday 3 February 2015, 15:00: Applied Mathematics Seminar: Room: M/2.06, Speaker: Helen Wilson (University College London). Title:   Instabilities in viscoelastic fluids.
Wednesday 4 February 2015, UCAS Open Day.

Thursday 5 February, Developing Mathematical Models in Healthcare Seminar, 15:45-18:00, Main Building, Cardiff University.

Featured Talk

The Oberwolfach Conference on Spectral Theory and Weyl Functions takes place between 4—10 January 2015 and features talks by two members of the Cardiff's Analysis Group,
Dr Angela Mihai

On Wednesday 7 January Dr Karl Michael Schmidt (pictured above) will talk on spectral measures of  one-dimensional Dirac operators, whilst on Thursday  8 January, Prof. Marco Marletta will speak on The finite section method for dissipative Schrödinger  and Jacobi operators.

Limerick Of The Month

A merchant asleep in a tent,
In a camp on the road to Tashkent,
Awoke from his slumbers
With negative numbers,
So, rather than coming, he went.
(By Prof. Martin Huxley)

Joke Of The Month

1) There’s a band called 1023MB. They haven’t had any gigs yet..

2) Schrödinger’s cat walks into a bar. And doesn’t. 

Editorial Team

Ms Catherine Parker,

Dr Matthew C. Lettington
Copyright © 2015 Cardiff School of Mathematics, All rights reserved.