Hot spots, computers, and the academic life: an interview with Nilima Nigam

Dear readers,

I’m delighted to continue my interview series with someone who has been one of my greatest mentors, Nilima Nigam. I first met Nilima at McGill in 2004 when I took her Honours Numerical Analysis class. This was a very demanding course, where we not only solved problems and proved theorems, but also implemented numerical algorithms. It was worth every minute invested in it because I learned so much.

In 2005 I took Nilima’s Partial Differential Equations class. Just as the other class, Nilima’s philosophy was to allow us to learn by practicing as much as possible, rather than memorizing complicated proofs or accumulating abstract concepts with few examples. This was one of few classes where I experienced mathematical results being arrived at together by teacher and students, and it felt deeply empowering.

These two classes helped me finalize my decision to pursue more applied areas of mathematics, and I was very fortunate to have the chance to work with Nilima as a summer student that year. This resulted in three months of intense work culminating in a nice publication. Nilima also trained my team for the 2006 Mathematical Contest in Modeling though we ended up doing badly due to time mismanagement.

In 2008 Nilima left McGill for Simon Fraser University with her spouse, Paul Tupper, himselfa great teacher and applied mathematician. Although my interests shifted primarily to biological applications of mathematics, my general approach to research and teaching remains much inspired by Nilima’s and I also followed her example in exploring industrial mathematics after my PhD. Here is our conversation.

To find out more about Nilima’s work you can visit her homepage. Hope you enjoyed this interview!

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