Math goes to work for B.C.'s major industries

The UBC-based Pacific Institute for the Mathematical Sciences (PIMS) will apply high-level mathematical methods to help develop B.C.'s major industries, thanks to recently announced funding from the provincial Information, Science and Technology Agency (ISTA).

In an intensive weeklong workshop last year, PIMS gathered over 80 mathematical scientists, including 30 graduate students, to analyse problems presented by the B.C. Cancer Agency, MacMillan Bloedel, Petro-Canada and other companies. The workshop's success has led the institute to create an annual industrial workshop with monthly industrial problem-solving seminars in between.

"B.C.'s economy is diversifying at a rapid rate, and technology-based industries are taking their place in the market and playing an important role in job creation," Dan Miller, minister responsible for the ISTA said when the funding was announced. "The application of mathematics to daily challenges found in many sectors is leading to increased productivity."

PIMS, which opened in 1996, is Canada's newest and third institute for the mathematical sciences. It will become the central co-ordinating agency for activities of mathematical scientists at the universities of Alberta, B.C., Calgary, Victoria and Simon Fraser University.

The institute is involved in a range of projects including scientific workshops, conferences and summer schools on topics ranging from mathematical finance to high-performance computing and the development of a National Network for Mathematical Sciences.

"We are very optimistic about the scope and depth of research that can be conducted now that PIMS is becoming part of the intellectual fabric of B.C. and western Canadian enterprises," said PIMS director Prof. Nassif Ghoussoub.

PIMS is in the process of developing a new national network called Mathematics of Information Technology And Complex Systems (MITACS) in collaboration with its sister institutes in Ontario and Quebec as part of the federal Networks of Centres of Excellence (NCE) program. MITACS is one of only 10 groups that has been invited to submit a full NCE proposal.