What is Applied Mathematics?

By Saima Rashid

These days mathematics is applied almost everywhere, and this wealth of activity cannot be encompassed in one university department. The focus of the Applied Mathematics Department is application of mathematics to problems in science, engineering, and medicine.

The Applied Mathematics major equips students with the mathematical theories and procedures required to find solutions to business, government, physical, life, and social problems. Advances in information technology, climatology, biological sciences, economic and environmental emissions modeling have resulted from the use of mathematic techniques.

Furthermore, industries rely on those with mathematical abilities to design and develop products such as computers, cars, communication systems, textiles, and prescription drugs, and underpin processes and services such as supply chains, logistics and production scheduling.

Undergraduate programs are based on courses that provide a strong mathematical and computational background, while offering a selection of courses in areas of application. These application areas are quite diverse, and reflect the research interests of members of the department.

For example, the behaviour of fluids and their motions is essential to our very existence on this planet. Think of the oceans, the atmosphere, the earth’s crust, underground fossil fuels…
Describing the flow of fluids, including the waves that travel within them, comprises the subject of fluid dynamics. A sequence of two courses will introduce you to this fascinating area.

Perhaps you are interested in learning about chaotic dynamics, the unpredictable behaviour of nonlinear systems, or how engineers design control systems, which are used in diverse areas such as robotics, aerospace engineering and biomedical research..

Have you ever wondered about Einstein’s theory of relativity, one of the revolutions in physics of the twentieth century? Or about how quantum mechanics — the physics of very small scales — differs from the classical mechanics of everyday life? If so, you may be interested in a course in general relativity or quantum mechanics.

Of course all of these applications require a strong mathematical background, which is developed in the first three years, starting with Calculus and Linear Algebra.

An education in Applied Mathematics gives you not only knowledge, but also the ability to organize and use that knowledge profitably. Every Applied Mathematics course is geared toward providing the students with the ability to use a variety of mathematical and computational tools to solve problems in various fields.

Graduate Attributes and Employability

Bachelor of Mathematics gradates with a major in Applied Mathematics will have the skills, abilities and knowledge sought after by a broad range of employers. On completion of the degree, graduates can expect:

1. In-depth knowledge and skills in mathematics, including:

a. Proficiency in the fundamentals of mathematics and statistics.
b.     Knowledge and skills of at least one area of Mathematics to a depth sufficient for further study, research or employment as a mathematician or statistician.
c.     Overview of areas of mathematics and understanding of connections between them.

2. Experience and understanding of mathematical applications, including the:

a. Ability to formulate mathematically problems arising outside mathematics.
b. Ability to validate mathematical models and to interpret their results.
c.   Ability to apply and adapt mathematical or statistical knowledge to a wide range of situations.

3. Judgement and ability in problem solving, including the:

a.     Ability to form conjectures and test them using mathematical or statistical methods.
b. Ability to reason formally from hypotheses to conclusions.
c.     Experience in the use of mathematical and statistical resources from the literature or in computational tools.

d. Ability to develop mathematical methods for the solution of problems.

4. Effective communication with the mathematical and broader community, including the:

a. Ability to use mathematical or statistical tools to assimilate and to present information.
b. Ability to present clear and systematic reasoning in an appropriate form.
c. Ability to articulate mathematical concepts and arguments.

5. Independence and collaboration, including the:

a. Capacity to work autonomously.

b. Capacity to work in a team.

c. Sound basis for independent learning and awareness of directions further study might take.

6. Understanding of the importance of standards of mathematical practice within the profession and broader community, including the:

a. Awareness of importance of using appropriate mathematical and statistical models.
b. Able to validate the reliability of mathematical techniques and cognisant of their scope.
c. Prepared to keep up with developments in mathematics and statistics

If you look at job ads online, you won’t find many requests for applied mathematicians. That’s because “applied mathematics” is not a profession in itself, but an education that can lead to many different professions. That can be a real advantage because as an applied math graduate you are not “typecast”. Years after graduation, as the needs of the economy change, you will be able to use your education to quickly and efficiently retrain yourself for the new opportunities (which may not be the case for many “professionals”). Keep in mind that the days when people stayed in one job for a lifetime are over!

  • Applied Mathematics graduates with a B Math degree find many different types of jobs, because the skills of problem solving and critical thinking developed in our programs make them versatile and adaptable. These jobs typically involve research and development, software development or consulting, in areas such as:
    • Aerospace (Bombardier, CAE, Raytheon, Spar Aerospace)
    • Communications (Nortel, Mitel, Cantel, Telesat Canada)
    • Energy (Esso, Petrocan, Atomic Energy Control Board, Ontario Hydro)
    • Environment (Environment Canada, Dept. of Fisheries and Oceans, Nuclear Safety Solutions, RWDI Consulting Engineers)
    • Health and Medical Technology (Agfa Health Care)

The following list provides some example jobs available to graduates of a Bachelor of Mathematics majoring in Applied Mathematics. Some of these jobs will depend on the amount and level of study undertaken, level of experience, the combination of other majors and electives studied, while some may require further study.

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