A coffee with... dgm office hoody

Published on October 9th, 2013 | by Stephanie

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Dann Mallet

Position: Academic Program Director (Mathematical Sciences) and Associate Professor, Queensland University of Technology, Mathematical Sciences School.

How do you introduce yourself at parties?
“Hi, I’m Dann.” Now, in terms of my work, I usually say that I’m a mathematician. If it goes further than that I try to explain how I create equations and computer programs to mimic reality to try to answer questions that people have about systems involving biological cells and human interactions.

Why mathematics?
I always liked maths, numbers and solving problems. I originally intended to do business at uni, but I received a scholarship to study maths in a science degree… I basically stuck with it from that point onwards because opportunities and various levels of successes just happened to come my way at the right time. I’ve been very fortunate and maths, via academia, has always provided very well for me.

Do you think that mathematicians deserve the “geek” tag?
Not so much if you mean like the Springfield University nerds on The Simpsons. Especially in Australia. And even more so in my experience with applied mathematics and statistics. We are pretty normal people really. We like sports, socialising with friends, partying (some of us a little too hard at times) – some of us are even good at sports! I work with about 25-30 other mathematicians and statisticians and I couldn’t really identify any of them as “geeks”.

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What area of mathematics and why?
That I work in? I guess you would probably say modelling. In particular, modelling of biological cells in animals/humans. Even more specifically modelling of cancer and infectious diseases like chlamydia. I also model human interactions and how we alter each others’ characteristics when we interact.
The why:
Originally I worked in computational mathematics, but for various reasons I took a detour into modelling… I got stuck there. One day I hope to spend time to get back into the more theoretical side of things too… but not now.

What has maths done for you lately?
Kept me and my family fed, clothed and enjoying ourselves. My wife (a PhD student modelling airports using Bayesian networks), my son (a 4 year currently working on addition and subtraction of small integers) and myself (working on development and implementation of QUTs new Bachelor of Mathematics degree) recently returned from 3 months in Hong Kong on study leave – I guess maths gave us that awesome opportunity to experience a different way of living.

Do you have a favourite application or theory of maths?
Wow – tough question. I would probably have to say anything to do with fluid flow – very cool stuff. Beyond me, but cool when someone good explains it to me in terms I can understand![subscribe2]

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