Meet the Speaker – Associate Prof Julie Rowlett

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Meet the Speaker – Associate Prof Julie Rowlett

 Associate Professor Julie Rowlett

Chalmers University of Technology, Sweden

Associate Professor Julie Rowlett from Chalmers University of Technology takes some time out to tell us about her research passions and gives us a little taste of what to expect at the Public Lecture.

Can you tell us about your work? What drives your interest in this field?

My work is at the interface of geometry and analysis.  The analysis comes primarily from physics.  For example, many people know the equation which says that force is equal to mass times acceleration.  This is a mathematical equation!  We use analysis to understand the mathematical equations of physics. Now, let’s think a little more about this particular equation, like for example the force of an accelerating car.  The geometry surrounding the accelerating car affects the physics.  For example, if we try to accelerate on ice, the car might just spin out, and not move forwards.  So, if we really want to understand the physics, we need to think about both the mathematical analysis of the physical equation together with where this is happening.  The “where” (like on ice, on a dirt or gravel road, on a paved road, etc) is the geometry.  I have an insatiable curiosity to understand this interface where geometry and analysis interact.

Do you have any advice for future researchers?

I would (perhaps rather boldly) say that the two most important qualities of a researcher are diligence and humility.  Natural talent is overrated.  If you’re passionate about a subject and willing to dedicate your time to it, that is more important than having innate talent for the subject.  Don’t be afraid to ask questions or admit that you don’t understand something!  Be honest about what you do (and do not) understand.

Why are opportunities such as AMSI Winter School so valuable? What do you hope attendees take from your lectures?

The AMSI Winter School is an excellent and rare learning opportunity!  Four researchers will come from around the world and share our knowledge about four topics, each in our particular area of expertise.  My goal is to teach you as much as I can in the time we have about heat and its relationship to geometry.  I aim to give both a broad and general overview of the topic as well as go into further particulars in the areas of my expertise, where I can tell you both what experts know, as well as what we do not know.  It is a rather unique opportunity, because I’ve created my course especially for this winter school.  To the best of my knowledge, some of the course content is not found anywhere in the literature.

What do you consider your biggest achievement to date?

Computing the incomputable.

This may sound a bit weird, so let me get more down-to-earth.  There are mysterious numbers which are responsible for many important physical phenomena including:  the sounds caused by vibrations, the way waves travel, the flow of heat, and the energy of quantum particles.  Important as they are, in general, we are unable to compute them exactly.  Together with my research partners, I have proven a small collection of results about these “incomputable numbers.”  These results translate nicely into everyday terms.  With Zhiqin Lu, we proved that “one can realistically hear the sound of symmetry,” in a certain sense.  With Zhiqin Lu and later generalizations with Medet Nursultanov and David Sher, we proved that “one can hear corners.”  If you’re curious about what this really means in a bit more precise mathematical and physical formulation, then come to the public lecture!

Associate Professor Rowlett will be presenting the topic Heat Flow and Geometry, as well as the Public Lecture The Spectrum: Incomputable yet physically tangible numbers at the 2018 Winter School, hosted by The University of Queensland.

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