Vice-Chancellor, Professor Nira Chamberlain OBE is one of the most eminent applied mathematicians in the UK, who’s work straddles academic and industrial mathematics, inspiring both communities. A tireless champion, and role model, for black mathematicians. he gives countless inspirational presentations to both academic and general audiences about the extraordinary accomplishments of black mathematicians.
These have encouraged many black students to take up mathematics. He founded the annual ‘Black Heroes of Mathematics’ conference; a huge, international event showcasing the talent of black mathematicians. In 2018 he won the title of “World’s Most Interesting Mathematician” by winning the Big Internet Math Off. I think his inspiring attitude to inclusivity in mathematics is best summarised by quoting him from his ‘Black Heroes’ talk:
You don’t need anyone’s permission to be a great mathematician
Professor Chamberlain was born in Birmingham, and his parents came from Jamaica. He showed great mathematical talent at school but was discouraged from doing advanced mathematics because of his colour. Despite this he went to Loughborough University when he obtained a masters’ degree in Industrial Mathematical Modelling. He then went on to Portsmouth University where he obtained a PhD in Statistical Physics. Since then, Professor Chamberlain has pursued an international career in mathematical modelling which straddles industrial and academic applied mathematics. He was involved in the design of the aircraft carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth, convincing sceptical admirals of the role of mathematics in ship design. This use of mathematics in the real world was cited in the Encyclopedia of Mathematics and Society. In 2012, Professor Chamberlain was involved with the UK STEM Project “Being a Professional Mathematician” and in 2014 he was named by the Science Council as one of the UK’s top 100 scientists. In 2020 he became the President of the Institute of Mathematics and Its Applications (IMA), one of the highest marks of achievement in applied mathematics in the UK. He used his presidency at the IMA to greatly raise the profile of black mathematicians, and of ED&I in general. In the New Year’s Honours list in 2022 he was awarded a very well-deserved OBE for services to mathematics, and in February 2022, he became a Visiting Professor of Loughborough University.
Professor Chamberlain regularly gives public lectures, discussing the significance of mathematics in human achievements and debating its relevance in everyday life. He makes regular appearances in UK media and is a BBC expert voice, as well as a speaker for the UK charity, Speakers for Schools.
Professor Chamberlain is a staunch, very active, and highly effective campaigner for more diversity within the mathematical sciences. He frequently gives talks in UK schools, through the charity Speakers for Schools. His lecture “The Black Heroes of Mathematics” is popular all over the UK and repeated regularly. Indeed we make a point of showing it to the mathematics students at Bath (both to the Undergraduate Mathematics Society and to our PhD students). In 2018-2022 he was included on Powerlist, an annual publication celebrating the 100 most influential British people from African and African Caribbean heritage.
Professor Chamberlain has strong links to Bath. He has visited several times to talk, and to inspire, our mathematics students. He has also invited our PhD students to talk in the ‘Black Heroes of Mathematics’ conference.
This award of an honorary degree is a fitting tribute to Professor Chamberlain’s extraordinary achievements. I present Professor Nira Chamberlain OBE who is eminently worthy to receive the Degree of Doctor of Science honoris causa.