Atlantic Interchange meets for math

An industry association devoted to promoting links between math and IT is taking its message across the country, starting with the East coast.

Mathematics of Information Technology and Complex Systems (MITACS) Monday said

it would host its first “”Atlantic Interchange,”” a one-day conference at Dalhousie University on March 24. The event will include an exhibition of math-related projects and a workshop for high-school students, as well as seminars which describe the role of math in Internet security, health care advances and transportation.

MITACS was formed through the National Centre of Excellence program which pairs academics with industry to work on joint problems. The group has 200 network investigators (academics) across the country training 150 students. Sponsors include 75 companies and business organizations ranging from Telus and Nortel to IBM and Bell Canada. The students come from the graduate programs of 26 universities.

Dr. Arvind Gupta, one of MITACS founders, said the Atlantic Interchange is a way of building on the annual conferences it has held in Vancouver. The idea is to bring together as many students, academics and businesses together as possible and discuss partnership opportunities.

“”We’re looking at this as a bootstrapping program,”” he said. “”Hopefully out of this will flow interesting research projects and collaborative work between the two communities.””

The event will try to foster these collaborations by providing compelling examples of where math and IT meet. One of them is a partnership between Ballard Power Systems and the University of New Brunswick on fuel cell technologies.

Proton exchange membrane fuel cell technology has been around for years — it’s been used in the space program since the 1960s, for example — but it’s only been recently that they’ve been able to reduce the cost of components so that it’s affordable. The project’s aim is to get the cells into the automotive industry by developing a workable fuel cell that could be in a car.

John Stockie, assistant professor in UNB’s department mathematics and statistics, said he will soon have to replace the post-doctoral student who has been helping him run numerical simulations of components, but he’s not looking forward to the search.

“”I need somebody that has a mix of skills, of mathematics, computer science and engineering,”” he said. “”The mathematics students are probably my best choice, but there’s so few of them that it’s hard to get somebody that’s actually interested in this specific project.””

Gupta said that’s because our country has not done enough to educate students about the relevance of mathematics in areas like finding oil and diagnosing heart attacks.

“”I’ve got three daughters, and they just have no idea why mathematics is importa

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