I am a PhD student in mathematics at University College London, under the supervision of Professor Frank Smith, looking at the impact of static and dynamic roughness elements on the separation of boundary layers, with a particular focus on aerodynamic applications.

The longer version

A maths teacher, a long time ago now, was explaining something to us.  It wasn’t on the syllabus but, what the heck, he was giving it a go anyway.  I can’t remember what it was, but we must have been staring back at him with all the signs of collective confusion, for he stopped—mid-sentence, mid-stride.  He cocked his head and looked at us.  And apologised.  He was going too fast.  He had forgotten.  He was pointing to the beautiful lake stretched out in front of him, azure waters glistening in the sun, thinking that we were right there next to him.  But we weren’t.  We were still further down the mountain and didn’t have a clue what he was talking about.

So I decided to set out to look for that beautiful lake.  I became an explorer; I became a mathematician.  I found that lake, and many more besides.  Not just lakes either: rugged mountain peaks, blanketed in snow and bathed in golden dawns; verdant fields, snoozing to the lethargic peals of cow bells; precipitous cliffs of cold, uncaring, frowning rock; the cool shadow of scented pines; the springs of crisp, clear water bubbling up from the ground amidst mounds of damp moss… I’ll only ever see a fraction of all there is to see.

I’m an applied mathematician, currently a PhD student under the supervision of Professor Frank Smith at University College London, looking at the impact of static and dynamic roughness elements on the separation of boundary layers, with particular applications to aerodynamics.  It’s a great time to be an applied mathematician: the boundaries between engineering, physics and mathematics are blurring and the dramatic advances in computing power, along with what we’re able to do in a laboratory, mean that we can probe ever further into nature’s beauty.

This provides the more analytical mathematician with fantastic opportunities to collaborate with researchers in different departments, around the globe.  Not just in order to validate the numerical and experimental results that are being discovered, but also to apply their skills to gain a deeper understanding of the physics behind observed phenomena.

A little bit more…

They say that mathematicians are boring and lack creativity.  I disagree: mathematics is the most creative thing you could possibly do.  There’s literally nothing you can’t create or think about.

Me?  I also like words.  I like playing with them.  I like moving them around.  I like fitting them together in lots of different ways.  I like building with them.  And taking photographs.  I like that too.


I went to Ethiopia for the first time in October 2011 and returned in April 2012.  Except that the country stole a part of my heart and now I keep going back, mainly to Bruh Tesfa in Adigrat, in the north of the country.  You can find out about the work of Bruh Tesfa at www.bruhtesfa.org.

To keep me going when work won’t let me return, I’m involved in the Aysanew Kassa Trust, who you can find out more about at www.aysanew.org.