Dr Mark Wilkinson is a Research Associate in the School of Mathematical and Computer Sciences. He was nominated for the Pioneer Award by the Mathematics department where he works with Head of School, Professor Beatrice Pelloni, on her project "Analysis of models for large-scale geophysical flows".
The importance Heriot-Watt University places on public engagement with research inspired and encouraged Mark to develop his 'Maths of Social Media' (MoSM) campaign, enabling him to reach out to new audiences.
Why was Mark nominated by his department?
Mark independently developed materials designed to surprise the audience as to the power and relevance of maths in tackling a crucial problem in modern society: the spread of so-called Fake News.
Using a highly relevant and important topic, together with the right maths materials, has inspired young people to pursue Mathematics at an advanced level.
The department were impressed by the originality, timeliness and independence exhibited by his work.
Why does Mark think his activities are successful?
Students see a concrete and important real-world problem to which Maths makes a fundamental contribution. They are exposed to Maths and modelling which they would ordinarily not see at school. My campaign gives context to why understanding Maths is important, and it provides an answer to the often asked "why should I study Maths at high school, i'll never use it in real life".
What made the judges choose Mark as joint winner in the Pioneer category?
The judges were impressed that Mark's campaign strives to demonstrate the relevance and power of Maths in modern society; giving students a meaningful reason that they can understand to continue studying Maths. He also identified a specific target audience, allowing him to tailor his activity and materials accordingly.
What's next for Mark in his public engagement journey?
Winning the £1000 prize means I will have the necessary resource to develop an app for the Maths of Social Media campaign, further demonstrating the relevance of Maths in today's world. I also plan to run a series of one-off MoSM masterclasses in schools across Scotland.