Like with an optical illusion you can’t unsee, I struggle to believe it has been nearly three years since I began working at Warwick. Whether this is because time flies when you’re having fun, or it’s just that a triennium is hardly such a considerable fraction of my age any more, it has been a tremendous period, full of fun, discovery and interesting people. So although the prospect is undeniably exciting, it is with a certain bittersweetness that I leave for my new job at Birmingham.
Most of my work at Warwick has revolved around the Complexity Centre. I was very fortunate to be able to teach an optional module in the MathSys programme called ‘Computational Methods for Complex Systems’, which allowed me to explore with some of the brightest students I have ever met a whole range of curious topics. In fact, my interest in complexity really began during my physics degree in Granada thanks to a subject called ‘nonlinear physics’ for which we used computers to investigate cellular automata, self-organised criticality, neural networks and the like, and I tried here to do something similar. I also organised the weekly seminar for the Complexity Forum, from which several new acquaintances and collaborations have sprouted.
As to my research, I have had the opportunity at Warwick to work closely with some very talented people, in particular, Janis Klaise and Guillem Mosquera from Complexity/MathSys, as well as Weisi Guo from the Engineering School. Thanks to these and other collaborations I have been able to work on some of the things in which I am most interested. With Janis, on fundamental questions to do with networks, especially some of those thrown up by our work on trophic coherence. With Guillem and Weisi, on what we might call the human ecosystem. And also, whether alone or with various other colleagues, on such topics as how to escape from tragedies of the commons, or how synaptic pruning allows the developing brain to optimise its architecture.
As of August I will be taking up a permanent lectureship in applied mathematics at the School of Mathematics at the University of Birmingham. My aim is to build a group focused on exploring the relationship between structure and function in complex, dynamical systems. I hope to be able to work closely both with some of the combinatorics people there, and with more applied researchers with expertise in relevant areas of biology. But one of the many good points about working at Birmingham is its proximity to Warwick, so I look forward to still seeing you all around in the Complexity Centre.
by Samuel Johnson, Warwick Zeeman Lecturer