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Lunch Pitches with Martin Rosvall and Manya Sundström

To encourage cross pollination of ideas between researchers from different disciplines, IceLab hosts interdisciplinary research lunches with the vision of allowing ideas to meet and mate. During the Lunch Pitch Season, the creative lunches take place at KBC every other Tuesday.

Place: KBCon Glasburen  (KBC Focus Environment’s glass room), KBC
Time: Tuesday 24 March at 12:00.


This lunch pitch has been cancelled due to COVID-19 precautions.


Pitch 1: Martin Rosvall: Creative students can help you realize your project idea

Professor, Department of Physics and Icelab, Umeå University


Do you have an exciting research idea but lack the time or skills to try it out? Dedicated final-year students can help you. In the 15-point course Design-Build-Test, students from the civil engineering programs in biotechnology, engineering physics, computer science, mechanical engineering, and industrial economics work in teams of 6-8 people for five months with innovative projects. All teams receive training in agile project management and group development to boost their effectiveness and let you maximally benefit from this opportunity.
Two project examples from previous years:
• Automatic tree detection and species identification by fusion of laser scanner data and camera images. In collaboration with SLU, the students equipped a portable laser scanning system with a camera to identify trees and used deep learning for species determination.
• Pilot-scale reactor for water treatment: Removing pharmaceuticals from drinking water with ozone injection. In collaboration with Miljötekniskt Center AB and Umeå University, the students built a lab-scale radical hydroxyl reactor to purify wastewater from drugs.
In my lunch pitch, I will tell you how to take full advantage of this opportunity.

Pitch 2: Manya Sundström: On the beauty of mathematics, and how to teach it

Associate Professor, Department of Science and Mathematics Education, Umeå University


I will give a short presentation on mathematical beauty.  By way of examples, we can see how mathematics can move us, the way a piece of music or a work of art could do.  I will also raise the question about how to convey this beauty to young children, a question that unfortunately is not often asked in the context of school mathematics.  The basic claim is this— that if children do not get exposed to the beauty of mathematics, then we have failed to teach it properly.  And this failure has palpable consequences. The very students that we want to usher into the field may be the ones that the traditional teaching of mathematics alienates.
My work in this area, so far, has been largely philosophical.  What gives rise to the aesthetic experience, what are mathematical examples which do or do not have the characteristics that lend themselves to a positive aesthetic experience?
But ultimately my goal is to address the pedagogical question, how can we teach to convey the beauty of mathematics to students.  Very little work has been done on this question in mathematics education, and in fact it has been identified by the editors of the leading scientific journal in math education as the most under-researched question in our field.
My pitch is then how to design a study to move forward with this pedagogical question. There are several very tough issues one must operationalize.  For instance, what would count as an aesthetic experience for a child?  Are the criteria that make a mathematical proof appealing to a mathematician similar to, or different than what would make a mathematical explanation appealing to a child? (note that proofs are hard to do at the school level, they are often too hard.)
We have done some pilot work in with 3-4 graders, but this work has mostly led to questions rather than answers.  Any suggestions about how to move forward would be very welcome!

About the Pitchers

From flows of money between banks or ideas among scientists to pandemic outbreaks and range shifts of species, Martin Rosvall’s research focuses on developing methods for revealing the inner workings of interconnected systems to answer questions in various areas of science.

Martin was born in Uppsala and grew up north of Umeå. He went to a high school for cross-country skiing in Lycksele before his undergraduate in engineering physics. After his Ph.D. in network science at the Niels Bohr Institute in Copenhagen, Martin moved to the Department of Biology at the University of Washington in Seattle for his postdoc. There he started working on a grand challenge in network science: how to simplify and highlight essential regularities in networks into maps. Mapping networks is a holy grail of data science because in the myriad links and nodes of a network hide answers to how we can predict how the system will evolve.

From 2009 at Umeå University, Martin has continued to develop and integrate new math, algorithms, and visualizations into powerful mapping tools for efficiently going from interaction data to insightful maps, new hypotheses, and unexpected discoveries. With a thriving research group in IceLab and a growing collaboration network, the applications now extend across both the natural and social sciences.



Manya Sundström is an associate professor of mathematics education at Umeå University. She works also at  Curiosum, Umeå’s new science center, developing exhibitions and programs that highlight the aesthetic side of mathematical practice.  She holds a PhD in mathematics education from UC Berkeley, and an MA in mathematics from UC Berkeley. Her research interests include mathematical aesthetics, history of mathematics, and psychological factors related to the learning of mathematical proof.


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