Brendan Murray:
Applied Mathematician


Your name?
Brendan Murray

Your position?

PhD researcher in Applied Mathematics at Complex and Adaptive Systems Laboratory at University College Dublin.
Area of research: Turbulence in Fluid Dynamics

Describe your job and what are your main tasks / responsibilities?

Within my research I use maths to study how the waves in a fluid interact and how these interactions can be modified by varying the frequency and amplitude of the waves in the system. This research work is in collaboration with other researchers and once we have sufficient results we go to conferences to present it and write academic papers so that other researchers working on similar topics can find out about it. Along with my research I also teach a tutorials to undergraduates in the School of Mathematics and Statistics and I work in the Maths support centre which operates as a walk in service to help students who are experiencing difficulties with maths across a large range of subjects.

How do you use mathematics within your job?

To study fluid interactions we often can not directly solve the mathematical equations as these systems are very complicated. Instead we approximate the equations and use numerical methods to write code to simulate these fluids on large computers with many CPU cores. The results of these simulations then needs to be interoperated using other mathematical methods such as statistics and numerical analysis.

What type of mathematics do you use to solve problems?

My research work involves using a range of mathematical areas to solve and analyse the differential equation that describe the motion of fluids. These include calculus, statistics, numerical analysis, numerical programming, parallel computing and many other topics from Fluid Mechanics.

What aspects of the mathematics curriculum or mathematics courses have proven most useful to you?  

I feel I have benefited from a range of aspects from my previous mathematics subject. Starting in secondary school where I studied both Maths and Applied Maths through to the current day I have found Maths and Maths Physics both interesting and highly rewarding. Maths courses encourage logical analysis, deduction and an attention to detail and rigorousness that are valuable skills in any career and indeed in everyday life too. The problem solving techniques can be applied to a wide range of topics, especially in science and technology

What is your education to date? 

I studied for a BSc in Pure Mathematics and Theoretical Physics in University of Maynooth and an MSc in High Performance Computing in Trinity College Dublin, I am currently a PhD student in University College Dublin where I received a SFI PhD Fellowship for a Science Foundation Ireland project, “Genesis and Development of Extreme Events in Fluids” under the supervision of Dr. Miguel Bustamante.

What advice would you give to someone considering your job?

I find my job in Maths research very enjoyable but it does require a significant amount of previous education to get started. My advice would be to choose subjects in university that appeal to you rather than focusing on a specific career. Many students fear the supposed difficulty of Mathematics but I feel that if you enjoy Maths it is a very rewarding subject while studying and also a very active field of research. If you enjoy it, go for it!

What do you find most interesting in your job and what do you find are the main challenges?

As a researcher I come across new challenges and obstacles all the time which means it is never boring! Through a range of different projects and collaborators I get to work on a number of different topics and this variety is important to ensure that the work remains interesting and enjoyable throughout my PhD. The main challenges are balancing research work and time spent teaching but apart from that I am thoroughly enjoying my time working as a PhD student in Applied Mathematics.