Barbara Offenhartz

Physical Chemist “Take a deep breath.” Maybe a doctor, a yoga teacher, or someone wanting to help you in some way has suggested this to you.  It’s good advice: breathing keeps us alive and gives us energy.   Throughout our lives, our bodies engage in respiration, a process that gives us the energy we need to do everything from playing basketball, baseball, or soccer to doing homework for school to keeping our bodies themselves running well. You could say that respiration begins with breathing in oxygen, which our lungs pass on to our blood.  The blood brings oxygen all over… Learn more

An Energy Economist & Atmospheric Chemist

Energy economist and atmospheric chemist   Politics can make energy and climate change seem black and white, dividing people and organizations into those that support traditional energy-producing industries (like coal and oil) and those that support newer, renewable resources (like. wind and solar energy). So it might surprise you to learn that “a number of the big oil and power companies made big early bets on wind, solar, and biofuels.” An energy economist Math4Science interviewed, also trained as an atmospheric chemist, explained just how complicated — as well as important — the realities shaping energy production are.   Note: Because he… Learn more

Emille Lawrence

Topologist At some point, you learned to tell the difference between a triangle (a polygon with three sides), a rectangle (four sides…), and a circle (the set of points that are a certain distance from a particular point). Understanding the differences between those shapes may have been one of your first achievements in a field of mathematics called “geometry.”   Topologist Emille Lawrence focuses on another field of math, one in which a triangle, a rectangle, and a circle are all considered the same shape: a closed, one-dimensional shape with one hole inside of it.  Topologists define a shape by… Learn more

David Scheiner

Internet Applications Developer The apps you use on your phone were first thought up by people who started with just a cool idea. Do you “tweet” on Twitter? Read on to find out how your tweets might (or might not) indicate that you’re part of an emerging revolution. But not all apps are available to everyone. Companies and other organizations use computers and applications (apps) to share information with their clients and employees. David Scheiner is an internet applications developer and architect in England. One thing he loves about his work is that “you’re interacting with code written by so… Learn more

Fern Hunt

Applied Mathematician How can a triangle help mathematicians predict how likely a driver is to choose any one of three different paths to her destination? Which kind of triangle best models that situation? And what does this have to do with computers? Read on to find out. Applied Mathematician Fern Hunt uses probability to help us better understand how computers work, how information and disease spread, and patterns in certain kinds of bacteria. The mathematical tools she applies to her work include Markov chains, vertex covers, greedoids, and other complicated ways of analyzing information. Below, you will learn about one… Learn more

Erika Camacho

Math helped Applied Mathematician Erika Camacho adjust to a new school after her family moved to the United States. Can it also help people see better and limit the recruitment efforts of terrorist groups? Camacho creates mathematical models to show scientists how the human retina — the part of the eye that contains the cells known as rods and cones — functions. Her work helps doctors improve treatments for the now-incurable disease retinitis pigmentosa. The eyes of mammals contain photoreceptor cells which absorb light and turn it into electrical signals. Our brains turn those signals into images we can make… Learn more

Alex Paul (Sandy) Pentland

Data Scientist Can the information our computers gather about us improve our lives? In the future, will machines track our social interactions at work and at play? Will they improve our ability to make friends, find love, and succeed professionally? “For the first time, we can precisely map the behavior of large numbers of people as they go about their normal lives,” says Data Scientist Alex (Sandy) Pentland in his book: Honest Signals: How They Shape Our World. Using a “sociometer,” built with “cell phones and electronic badges with integrated sensors,” (x) Pentland and his students created a way to… Learn more

Bernard Chazelle

Applied Mathematician Computer Scientist Imagine the planets and stars located throughout the universe.  Each one moves according to one set of rules, studied by physicists, astronomers, and astrophysicists. Gravity, for instance, applies to objects in space in one way which changes according to laws of physics we understand. Larger bodies (like Earth’s sun) create stronger forces of gravity. The further you are from any very large objects in space, the less you pulled by gravitational force. But what if each planet “had its own rules and decided to move in a different way, depending on what the other planets do?”… Learn more

Steven Strogatz

Applied Mathematician SWARMS OF SYNCHRONOUSLY FLASHING FIREFLIES Poetry? Well, yes, and also one of the ways Applied Mathematician Steven Strogatz describes his work. The author of Sync: How Order Emerges from Chaos in the Universe, Nature, and Daily Life and a frequent contributor to Radio Lab and The New York Times, Strogatz devotes a good deal of his time to helping people understand the beauty of mathematics. I live in the world of math applied to nature. For me, it’s a two-way street where nature is an inspiration for math problems [and math can be done] in the service of… Learn more

Brian DePasquale

Machines — even computers — seem simple when compared to the complicated human brain. It might seem surprising that “machine learning” is helping scientists understand that brain.  Read on to find out how. Math has taught us a lot about how to understand the physical world. But what can it teach us about our own brains, the very structures that make us who we are? That’s what Theoretical Neuroscientist Brian DePasquale is trying to find out. The human brain is made up of billions of cells called neurons, linked by trillions of connections, so it’s a daunting task to use… Learn more