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Preparing tomorrow’s scientists to help solve Earth's biggest problems – University of Reading

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Preparing tomorrow’s scientists to help solve Earth's biggest problems

Release Date 22 November 2013

Professor Beatrice Pelloni

How are scientists able to predict the complex and chaotic reality of global weather and climate? The answer: by turning the fiendishly complicated natural processes of Planet Earth into sophisticated mathematical equations - and being able to interpret the results.

Now some of the world's leading organisations for the study of weather and climate are creating a new £16million centre to train the next generation of mathematical scientists, giving them the skills they need to help answer some of the world's biggest problems.

The creation of a new Mathematics of Planet Earth Centre for Doctoral Training was announced today (22 November) by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC).

This new research training centre, a partnership between Imperial College London and the University of Reading, will provide a mathematical training spanning all the way from data-driven statistics to creating models of the Earth system. It will train 76 highly skilled mathematical scientists to become future leaders in innovative research, developing prediction technologies, interpreting colossal data sets relating to the Earth system, and modelling risk associated with extreme weather and climate change.

Building on large existing research links, the new centre will be an equal partnership, jointly led between the Department of Mathematics and Grantham Institute for Climate Change at Imperial College, and the School of Mathematical and Physical Sciences (SMPS) at Reading.  

The £16m centre will be established with considerable levels of investment from  EPSRC, the two Universities, plus a substantial funding contribution from 17 external partners, who will work with Reading and Imperial to deliver PhD training through new collaborative partnerships and co-supervising PhD projects. These partners include the UK Met Office and the European Centre for Medium Range Weather Forecasts, representatives of the insurance, water, energy and marine sectors, and leading international research centres across Europe and the US.

Professor Beatrice Pelloni, University of Reading, the Deputy Director of MPECDT, said: "I am delighted to be involved in this exciting project.  The topic, vision and practice of this CDT will provide a radically new type of training, and I am confident this will prepare and inspire a new generation of mathematical scientists, empowering them to understand and control the very great challenges our planet is facing."

Professor Dan Crisan, Imperial College London, the Director of MPECDT, said: "Changing climates, population growth and urban development is putting more people at risk from extreme weather and shifting patterns of climate. If we are to face the challenges of the decades ahead, we need to invest more in research and training in this area - something the UK government and insurance industry clearly recognise.

"Our CDT will address this challenge by training highly skilled mathematicians who will be future leaders of innovative research. Our graduates will translate their research into real world impacts in a wide range of public and industrial sectors dealing with risk and uncertainty quantification for weather, oceans and climate. Their interdisciplinary training will be integrated with the development of teamwork, communication, management and leadership skills - all essential for their future careers."

Professor Julia Slingo, Chief Scientist at the Met Office, said: "The Met Office is a science-led organisation and our success in weather forecasting and climate prediction depends, critically, on a research programme at the cutting edge of modelling and predicting the evolution of the atmosphere and climate system.

"To meet this requirement we must collaborate with and recruit PhD graduates who have advanced mathematical sciences training and significant experience of applications to the modelling of the ocean, atmosphere, or land. We are delighted to be a leading partner in this centre, and look forward to co-supervising students and hosting innovative summer schools and training at the Met Office in Exeter."

ENDS

For more information for media please contact Pete Castle at the University of Reading press office on 0118 378 7391 or p.castle@reading.ac.uk.

Notes to editors:

  • Applications for fully-funded studentships at the MPECDT are open via their website www.mpecdt.org
  • This new centre is part of a £350million investment by EPSRC in 70 new Centres for Doctoral Training, announced today by the Science and Universities Minister David Willets MP. See www.epsrc.ac.uk
  • The School of Mathematical and Physical Sciences (SMPS) at Reading is a world-leading centre for the study of weather and climate, through the application of mathematics and statistics and an understanding of fundamental physical science. The School comprises 80 academic staff, 120 research staff, and over 110 research students, these supported by over £50M of current research funding spread across the School's constituent Departments of Mathematics and Statistics and of Meteorology. SMPS hosts large parts of two NERC national centres, the National Centre for Earth Observation and the National Centre for Atmospheric Sciences, the University's Walker Institute for Climate System Research and, uniquely, plays host to a group of 20 Met Office Scientists (MetOffice@Reading) embedded in the School.
  • The Department of Mathematics at Imperial College London is an internationally leading research school comprising over 90 academic staff, 54 postdoctoral fellows and 110 PhD students, supported by large HEFCE research funding and large research grant earnings, with current grants worth over £75M. The Department had a superb performance in RAE 2008, ranked 1st in the UK for Pure Mathematics, 4th for Applied Mathematics, and 2nd for Statistics.
  • The Grantham Institute for Climate Change at Imperial College was launched in 2007 with large investment from Imperial College and the Grantham Foundation for the Protection of the Environment. It has a mandate to drive forward climate change related research, translating this into real world impact and communicating results to help shape decision making. Its Director is Professor Sir Brian Hoskins FRS, who is also Professor of Meteorology in SMPS at Reading.
  • The Met Office is the UK's National Weather Service and operates as a Trading Fund within the Department for Business Innovation and Skills. As a world leader in providing weather and climate services, it employs more than 1800 staff at 60 locations throughout the world. It is recognised as one of the world's most accurate forecasters and an international leader in climate research and prediction. Its weather and climate services are delivered to a huge range of customers from the Government, to businesses, the general public, armed forces, and other organisations.

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