Matthias Heil

Professor of Applied Mathematics

Matthias Heil

I arrived here in 1998 and have no intention of leaving! Great staff and students give this place a real buzz.


How would you summarise your research?

I'm an applied mathematician, meaning that I'm interested in 'real world problems' that benefit from being analysed using theoretical/mathematical models. I have done a lot of work on problems involving the interaction between elastic bodies and viscous fluids, often motivated by physiological flow problems such as the dynamics of the liquid lining in the pulmonary airways.

I'm particularly keen on problems that require the use of new and clever numerical techniques and I spend a lot of time developing and implementing such methods in our group's scientific computing library oomph-lib  which is developed and maintained jointly with my colleague Andrew Hazel. We and others have used the library for a wide range of problems, including the modelling of free-surface flow of chocolate (joint work with an industrial collaborator from Birmingham), and underwater acoustics problems (again with an industrial collaborator). More recently I've been involved in a project concerned with modelling the melting of debris-covered glaciers.

What do you think makes the School distinctive?

We are one of the biggest schools of mathematics in the UK which means that there's a fantastic range of expertise in all areas of the subject. Despite our size, the School is very friendly and there is a lot of interaction between people working in the various, traditionally distinct, disciplines such as pure, applied, statistics and probability. The wide range of expertise is also reflected in the undergraduate syllabus which gives students a lot of choice.

 What do you enjoy most about teaching?

I love maths (well, most of it anyway) and teaching students provides a superb opportunity to pass my enthusiasm for the subject on to the 'next generation'. Developing lectures and trying to come up with an elegant and intuitive way to explain the material is a great intellectual challenge and it's very satisfying  to observe how 'the penny drops' in a class.

What do you enjoy most about research?

The ability to work at the very leading edge of the subject, obtaining results that nobody else has seen before. My research is usually done in collaboration with others and this is extremely important to me – I'd hate to just sit in the office all by myself.

What have been the highlights of your career?

My appointment to a position in Manchester, obviously! The award of a five-year research fellowship from the EPSRC shortly after my arrival here was pretty good too.

How long have you been at the School? What keeps you there?

I arrived here in 1998 and have no intention of leaving! Great staff and students give this place a real buzz, then there are the additional benefits of being in the North West of England, such as the beautiful countryside in striking distance.

How do you think students remember you?

I obviously have spies all over the place and therefore happen to know that students generally find me 'slightly scary but very enthusiastic'. My favourite comment on a feedback questionnaire for one of my first-year lecture courses was that I reminded a student 'of his old headmaster at School – but in a good way'. I interpreted this as a compliment!



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