Words of Researchers

“One of the great things about working at ThinkTank Maths is the diverse range of projects that we work on. Both in terms of the broad range of mathematical areas in which we do our research and also the wide range of industry problems we come to understand. It allows for great personal development both in terms of mathematical knowledge and skills but also in understanding the many and complex problems there are in real world. Within a week you can switch from researching in the latest advances in Artificial Intelligence to learning about how an oil well is drilled. At ThinkTank Maths I have worked on a much broader range of mathematical areas than in academia where it felt like my specialisation was getting narrower and narrower over time.

I have also been given opportunities to engage with schools and universities via our running of workshops for their students. This allows the company to be involved in and impact the education of future mathematicians and I find this very rewarding and enjoyable.

Of course we are not just a bunch of mathematicians stuck behind desks for eight hours a day. Every month or so (projects permitting of course) we try to organise an activity together outside the office. These can range from hiking and golf in the summer months to museum visits or even just a Burns’ supper together. This allows the team to bond on a social level which hopefully works to improve our collaboration when we do return to the office. It also helps foster the friendly atmosphere within the team and we even manage to have some fun at the same time!”

- Angharad

“Working at ThinkTank Maths is nothing like the ordinary. We have plenty of time to think and reflect on discussions and the directors truly care for our intellectual freedom. Diversity is a great aspect of our team, and we understood the value of this, use it and see ourselves grow. We are treated with respect and everyone has their say. This makes us unique as a whole. It is a great feeling to be part of this exceptional team and I am proud to contribute to the work we do to make this world a better place for us and for future generations to come.

It is great to be part of something special and meaningful.  I come to work with excitement and a smile every single day.”

- Edina

“Even if we work on very precise project given by a company, the projects are part of a more general and current area of research. It’s very interesting to see how with our way of working in TTM, our way of approaching problems, we are able to have a decisive impact on those problematics.

We do mathematics properly. We have to define the good mathematical objects to formalise and handle the real world and its complexity. It ask us to understand in depth the problem and truly understand the mathematical technics.

The formalisation become then fundamental, we should use assumptions consciously and carefully. The mathematics is here to serve the formalisation and not the opposite way where we twist formalisation to use easy mathematics. Defining properly mathematical objects (knowing the space where your variables lie, the algebraic constrains on them…), and harnessing the technics to handle them (controlling assumptions, building methods with a real ingenuity…) improve considerably many engineering technics.

Moreover this fundamental questioning on the mathematics and the way of using them, push us to explore more and more mathematics and develop new technics in order to go beyond the established methods.

The projects we work on at TTM are really diverse, they come from different domains (space, oil and gas, financial services…) and they use a lot of different mathematics. What make the projects so interesting is also the way we approach them. We take on raw problems without any pre-conceptualised vision, no prism. We are confronted to the problem in the whole complexity of the real world. That means we have to access the totality of the data, dialogue with people facing te problem. It force us to discover and learn many other aspect outside mathematics. Moreover because we have no pre-conceptualisation, no mathematical areas are forbidden : we have to learn other mathematical domain and develop new maths.”

- Benjamin

“When thinking of my work at TTM, I would call it diverse and “always on the move”, just as the world around us is not stopping to evolve. Every project, even every task we want to solve has its own problems and comes with new restrictions and challenges and needs to be approached differently such that we can’t just warm up previous solutions.

In my opinion, the most interesting aspect of work is to translate the problems we face from a wordy description into a mathematical formalisation such that it covers all aspects of the problem without being to vague about details. This is much more than a one day work and requires numerous back-and-forths of team discussions and intensive brain-gym. But work for us doesn’t stop here, it rather diversifies and each member of team can pick their favourite tasks like algorithm development, systematic data analysis or coding. Moreover, I love using one of the plenty whiteboards that cover our walls and allow discussions to start and continue at every time.

Coming from abroad to TTM, I was not sure how it would be to start working and living in Scotland, but it was much easier than anticipated: Great support from the management and a welcoming atmosphere in the whole team. We have lunch breaks together and regular activities in the evenings.

Working in the middle of the city of Edinburgh has great benefits too like minimal commuting time and various businesses, doctors and restaurants just around the corner. Edinburgh is not only a great place to work but also to live: I love going to the cinemas in the evenings or visiting one of the numerous but hidden houses around the city, and when the weather is really nice I love going for a walk in the Pentlands or Border Hills nearby.”

- Thomas

“ThinkTank Maths looks to address the increasing disparity between the challenges of modern science and the mathematical models used. Rather than selecting a single domain or novel idea to develop into a ‘product’ TTM looks at each challenge individually, factoring in its unique aspects, needs, wants, issues etc. This requires researchers who relish the challenges of not only of working with and developing mathematical results but also formalising the problem into mathematics in the first place – just as important as deriving or recalling proofs is the ability to turn the description of a problem into mathematics.

Some mathematicians find this aspect unpalatable or struggle to adapt from the more ‘pre-formalised’ challenges of ‘applied mathematics’. Personally I find this aspect the most rewarding, especially as the challenges we look at often have mathematical models already associated to them but they are no longer applicable. It is not uncommon for mathematical models to be used within engineering or technology without accounting for their assumptions or requirements. As a result working at TTM requires giving up ‘reflex actions’ such as ‘linearising’, ‘perturbations’, ‘Gaussian distribution’, even if this means side-lining a lot of knowledge gathered at university.

Working as an individual such a change in my approach to mathematics would have been very difficult but TTM focuses on working within teams; providing regular discussions, updates, brain-storming and parallel work-threads. Through working alongside mathematicians from different disciplines and with different academic experiences new ways to approach problems and formalise ideas can be developed.”

- George

“One is able to work on the research-type work without the additional drawbacks related to working in a modern British university - mainly grant applications, admin and replying to tons of email daily. Together with the obligation to teach, this is probably the main reason that many researchers don’t have time to do research. At TTM, the ‘other stuff’ is kept to the minimum. Also, one is encouraged to work on problems in groups rather than individually.

One is also able to gain a familiarity with a wide array of techniques related to modern research. This includes various fields of mathematics and various programming languages. Of course, this familiarity for each person will not be nearly as deep as that of a ‘domain expert’ in a particular branch of Mathematics: however what one loses in specialisation one gains in having a broad perspective. Understanding the issues in one domain helps one tailor the work in another to address these.

One is encouraged to appreciate the ‘join’ between research and its applications in industry. All too often there is a gap between the theoretical side and the practical application, and one of the aims of TTM is to work in that gap. (Sometimes this gap is small, like in image analysis, sometimes it is very large in that theoretical methods and models do not come close the real-life problem, e.g. in re-entry heat modelling. But working to bridge it is vital everywhere.)

One is able to work with real data from real industrial processes - both the raw data and its contextual information. One is appraised of the issues associated with analysing it - for instance its highly imperfect and often incomplete nature.

TTM offers a friendly and flexible environment in which to do mathematical research in a way that is more tailored to specific problems encountered within industry.”

- Aram

“We’re encouraged to build our own tools for solving problems we encounter, instead of relying in existing tools and standard methods. This is especially important given the wide variety of problems we study, and it means we gain a much fuller understanding of the processes underlying the problem, allowing us to have more confidence that our solutions are fit for their intended purposes.

As we work collaboratively on all projects, this understanding is built up from multiple viewpoints and disciplines, which often have no immediately obvious connection to the task. As a result, the outcomes of our work can often be surprising, achieving results which may not have been seemed possible based on generic toolkits or existing preconceptions.”

- Jacob

“I would not appreciate to work  in a company where the business aspects limits the scientific ones, with only a short term vision, where you are forced to use certain technics because it’s quicker, it’s cheaper or just because your manager ignores what you are doing.

Here we provide tailored, durable and groundbreaking solutions to some very specific problems, so we can’t be satisfied with approximative solutions, or botch job.

It’s intellectually challenging, we can’t stay at a superficial level, we need to go in depth in the understanding of the concrete problem and therefore to be very demanding on the mathematics we use.

That is true that can be challenging for yourself, but what is very interesting in TTM is that we work in a team. It’s not by yourself you have to find a solution but collectively and using the different skills and talents of every one in the team.”

- Benjamin

“ThinkTank Maths doesn’t approach problems as a ‘consultant’, wrapping ‘tweaked’ pre-existing methods into a software package, but starts from scratch. Over the many projects I’ve worked on this has resulted in exploring many different domains of science and technology; first to familiarise myself with the current ‘state of art’ and mathematically assess its issues and second to work on addressing these issues through new mathematical approaches. Many of these domains have mathematical ‘standard practices’ built on domains I found uninteresting as an undergraduate – statistics for example.

Seeing real world problems, problems with enormous impact within an industry, provided me with renewed interest in their associated mathematical models but also the drive to explore rectifying the shortcomings or approach differently. This perspective, something I found quite lacking during my time in academia, despite my focus on applied mathematics and theoretical physics, makes every new potential project, no mater the domain, appear as an intellectual challenge rather than a mundane exercise in trying to ‘shoe horn’ in my university learned methods.

Despite this interest as a lone individual I would not be able to make sizeable progress on our projects, due to their scope and impact, but the way ThinkTank Maths places collaboration with a diverse group of mathematicians at the core of our working environment means my own work-threads can progress faster and further, in addition to the overall output of the team being improved.

Getting the perspectives of colleagues from wildly different mathematical domains has helped me see with greater clarity the many ways problems can be approached. Frequent discussions of a more philosophical nature help to develop this further, showing how we each not only have interests in different mathematical domains but how we approach research and understand the use of mathematics.”

- George

“I consider myself lucky that I can say that I finally feel I found my place professionally. I work amongst incredible people doing truly extraordinary work.

With many years previous experience at well-known big organizations, I confidently state, this is nothing like the common place of work. Nothing is boring and nothing is usual here… that is what makes it exceptional. The work we do, the approach we take is anything but ordinary. That was what appealed to me the most when I joined and I haven’t been disappointed ever since.

As a team we not only enjoy regular outings, home working days to explore our intellect and allow us time to submerge in to our ideas, but great atmosphere and space to grow mentally, intellectually and as a person.

I never felt restricted but encouraged and free to do my work as best I can, and I am heard, which very rarely happened to me before.

I do miss my team when on holidays… I do like coming to work every morning. I feel cared for and looked after not only professionally but as a person. I enjoy the challenge and find ourselves with plenty of opportunity to question conventional ways, that is our aim, our common goal, to look at things differently, in a way, it was never done before…

The management is remarkable, well respected, and still approachable, warm and honest, shame that some could not see this as an opportunity to grow.

Exceptional work takes effort and I enjoy it, we all do.

- Edina

Latest News RSS