In June, 70 participants from Mathematical Sciences, partners in the Department of Chemical Engineering and the oilfield services company Schlumberger, joined forces to work on formulating problems at SAMBa's 6th Integrative Think Tank (ITT).

ITTs are part of the training experience for SAMBa students and form an integral part of the first year programme. They aim to take large scale, applied challenges and reformulate them into mathematical questions that could be addressed through future research activity.

This time, the theme was Sensing and Complex Flows and addressed problems including gathering and using data from drilling operations, modelling the dynamics of bubbles, and understanding the movement of molecules through a Metal Organic Framework (MOF).

Students take the lead

The students took a leading role in this ITT, with second and third years chairing group discussions, and directing team work. The mentoring and support that latter stage SAMBa students provide to first years is truly invaluable, and is also a fantastic experience for students now working on their own research.

Sam Moore, a second year SAMBa student said: “I really enjoyed having the chance to guide other students through the ITT experience, and help stimulate discussions around the problem formulation. In addition, I ended up working on an idea that I found really interesting and I am hoping I can continue with the research in some format in the future.”

The next steps

This was the first ITT with an academic partner and it proved a very successful collaboration, with future joint research bound to follow.

Tina Düren from Chemical Engineering said: “The buzz in the room was incredible and it is amazing how much the SAMBa students achieved in such a short time. We started to solve a problem, which we could only vaguely define in mathematical terms at the beginning, and it was a lot of fun to work with the SAMBa students and staff. My colleagues and I got so much out of the ITT and it was a great experience.”

Follow-up with Schlumberger is already moving fast with a number of jointly-funded studentships and a research proposal likely to be delivered over the next few months. Evren Yarman from Schlumberger said: “It was a rewarding, collective, creative, scientific experience. All the boundaries between industrial partners, faculty and students were lifted and everyone became nothing but curious. For the problems I delivered, I am returning with a formulation that provides deeper understanding and clearer vision.”

The next ITT takes place in January 2018. It will enable further partners to form deep collaborations with SAMBa students and academic staff, and deliver impact across the continuum of the statistical applied mathematics remit. If you’re interested in finding out more about the ITT model or participating in an ITT week, please contact the SAMBa Centre Manager, Dr Susie Douglas.