Tag Archives: Alumni

Our Alumni – Vanni Noferini

In this blog post, we asked one of our alumni, Vanni Noferini, a few questions about his time with the Numerical Linear Algebra Group.

Please can you introduce yourself and tell us a bit about your experience before attending University of Manchester?

I was born in Florence, Tuscany. I did my undergraduate studies there, obtaining an M.Sc. in Theoretical Physics. Later, I got my Ph.D in Mathematics in Pisa. During my PhD I was jointly supervised by Dario Bini and Luca Gemignani. While in Italy I also played volleyball at a somewhat competitive level, and I have had a number of part-time/student jobs. For example I have been writing science popularisation articles for a Swiss newspaper.

Why did you choose to do your postdoc in Manchester?

While I was writing my PhD thesis I had applied to an open call for a postdoc position to work on functions of a matrix, with Nick Higham. Nick is a world-famous superstar in the area, so that sounded like a great opportunity. Moreover, I liked Nick and Françoise, and the rest of the group, since the day of my interview; they probably have also not disliked me too much because I was offered the job. Accepting it was a great decision: I learnt a lot and my time there has certainly shaped my career to a significant extent. I started in September 2012 (technically as a predoc: I flew to Pisa to defend my viva in October 2012) and stayed until August 2015.

During my Manchester years, I have worked not only with Nick but also with many other people who then were in the group: for example Yuji Nakatsukasa, Javi Perez, Meisam Sharify, Françoise Tisseur. Plus there were other fantastic mathematicians around to talk with, such as Stefan Guettel or Martin Lotz  — not to mention the frequent international visitors. Those were the days and Manchester was just the place to be… Now I manage my own research group at Aalto, and I am doing my best to create a similarly fruitful environment: my inspiration for this goal is definitely the NLA group in Manchester during my postdoc!

How did you find Manchester?

A little humid, but fun.  In my first couple of weeks I actually stayed in the Peak District (the husband of a friend of my then girlfriend had rented me a room in Congleton, Cheshire) which was beautiful but would not have been a very convenient long-term address to work in the Alan Turing Building. Thus, I soon moved to Didsbury and I lived there for most of my 3 years in Manchester. I was living in Austin Drive, not far from the Burnage railway station, and apparently very close to where Charles Van Loan had stayed during his own Manchester postdoc (at least, so he once told me). Later, more NLA group members figured out that Didsbury was a rather nice place, so eventually we had grown a small community there. In fact, fellow Didsbury resident Martin Lotz and I used to refer to Manchester as “Greater Didsbury”. On the occasional sunny weekends I liked to go around by car, so I got to know quite well the broader area of Greater Dids… I mean, Manchester, and North-West England.

Can you tell us about your career since leaving University of Manchester?

I have continued a career in academia. I was a Lecturer (Research) at the University of Essex in Colchester for about 4 years. I obtained tenure in Essex, and also indefinite leave to remain in the UK post-Brexit, having got a “settled status” as a long-enough UK resident and EU citizen. However, even though I have enjoyed my 7 years in England, I was offered an attractive position from Aalto University (Finland), that would give me more research time and better funding opportunities. So I moved here in May 2019.

What is your current role?

Currently I am an Associate Professor in Mathematics at Aalto University, which is located in Espoo (Finland). Here I am the leader of a research group on matrix theory and its applications. At the time of this interview, my group includes one visiting professor (Paul Van Dooren), two postdocs (Giovanni Barbarino and Manme Quintana), two PhD students (Lauri Nyman and Ryan Wood) and one MSc student by research (Antti Haavikko). We are having fun!

Our Alumni – Pythagoras Papadimitriou

In this blog post, we asked one of our alumni, Pythagoras Papadimitriou, a few questions about his time with the Numerical Linear Algebra Group.
Pythagoras Papadimitriou

Please can you introduce yourself and tell us a bit about your experience before attending University of Manchester?

I was born in Athens and grew up there.  I studied Mathematics (B.Sc.) at Athens University. Then I did my national service and I moved to Manchester in September 1990 to attend the M.Sc. course “Numerical Analysis & Computing” at Manchester University.

What was your PhD thesis on?

The title of my Ph.D. is “Parallel Solution of SVD-Related Problems, with Applications”. The main part of my research dealt with the development of parallel algorithms for computing the Singular Value Decomposition and the Polar Decomposition. The algorithms were designed for the particular architecture of the KSR1, which was a virtual shared-memory parallel computer, a leading-edge parallel computer technology of the 90s.

Why did you choose to study your PhD in Manchester?

My initial plan was to complete my M.Sc. and work in industry. But when Nick Higham asked me to do a Ph.D. with him with a scholarship from S.E.R.C. I did not think twice. I am very proud that Nick was my supervisor.

How did you find Manchester?

It was an invaluable experience, three wonderful years. I made good friends and I am still in touch with most of them. When I left Manchester in October 1993 I took only good memories with me, including some of the best moments in my life. They say that Manchester has changed and the city is more beautiful now. I hope my sons will have the opportunity to study in Manchester.

Can you tell us about your career since leaving Manchester?

I joined the IT industry as a software engineer a few days after the submission of my Ph.D. thesis in October 1993. My first employer was a start-up in Greece. I joined Intrasoft SA, the then largest Systems Integrator in southeast Europe, in 1995. At Intrasoft SA, I moved from SW Development to Project Management in 1997 and to Sales in 1999. I joined Nortel Networks in Athens in January 2001 as Sales Director for Greece and Cyprus. A dream came true in October 2005 when I joined Sun Microsystems, a company that I admired from my Manchester days when I used Sun Unix workstations for carrying out my research. I headed the SW Business Unit of Sun Microsystems for 5 years, being responsible for a huge geography, from Saint Petersburg to Cape Town and from Vienna to Vladivostok! In January 2011 I joined HP in Athens as Managing Director. I moved to Vienna in September 2014 to join Oracle as Senior Sales Director responsible for Central Eastern Europe, Russia, Turkey and Central Asia. Today my organisation is responsible for the Systems partners of Oracle in this region plus in Italy, France and Iberia.

What is your current role?

I head the Systems Alliance and Channel organisation of Oracle for Italy, France, Iberia, Central Eastern Europe, Russia, Turkey and Central Asia. We are responsible for driving with our channel partners (Value Added Distributors, Value Added Resellers, Systems Integrators and Independent Software Vendors) the hardware business of Oracle in this region.

Our Alumni – Ramaseshan Kannan

In this blog post, we asked one of our alumni, Ramaseshan Kannan, a few questions about his time with the Numerical Linear Algebra Group.

Ramaseshan Kannan SQ

Please can you introduce yourself and tell us a bit about your experience before attending University of Manchester?

I studied an Undergraduate and a Master’s in Civil and Structural Engineering at the Indian Institute of Technology in Chennai. Upon graduation I started working for Arup in India, developing finite element-based structural engineering software. In due course I became very interested in the “solver” stack of the code, which is the linear algebra layer. I asked if my employer would support my PhD in this area and, to my surprise, they agreed. However the funding I was being offered only covered a fraction of my tuition and expenses as I was a non-EU candidate. At this point the School of Maths and in particular my supervisors helped out and I was offered a school scholarship to do a collaborative PhD in the NLA group. That’s how I landed up in sunny Manchester.

What was your PhD thesis on?

I worked on a range of sparse linear algebra problems that originated in the software I was developing. The mainstay of my research was a new eigenvector clustering algorithm that allowed engineers to debug errors in their mathematical models. Other parts concerned the execution performance of matrix algorithms on parallel computers.

During the PhD I continued working for Arup as a technology translator implementing my own research back into commercial software. As a result I was able to see most parts of my PhD being used on real world problems, which was very satisfying.

Why did you choose to study your PhD in Manchester?

Having secured my employer’s funding we started scouting for research groups and centres of expertise around the world in the area of eigenvalue problems. Very soon it became clear that Manchester was a leader in both theory and numerical software so it was an obvious choice. In addition, my supervisors Nick Higham and Francoise Tisseur were open to making my rather bespoke arrangement work, all of which contributed to the decision.

How did you find Manchester?

I liked it so much that I haven’t left! I find it a great mix of practicality and opportunity. We have some of the best schools in the country. Plus we have the Peak District, the Lake District, and Yorkshire Dales all within a day-trip’s distance.

Can you tell us about your career since leaving Manchester?

After finishing my PhD I have continued to work for Arup in our Manchester office. Over the years I have been involved in a gamut of activities such as internal and external research including sponsored MSc and PhDs, writing numerical software, publishing and peer reviewing and consulting with engineers to understand their technical problems, to name a few.

What is your current role?

As above, I don multiple hats although my primary role is centred around developing numerical software with the eventual aim of making simulations faster, more accurate, or more productive for the end-user. I am also tasked with blue sky activities so, as an example, I’m looking at ways in which machine learning can be symbiotically used with traditional numerical analysis/engineering simulation to help engineers.

Our Alumni – Sam Relton

In this blog post, we asked one of our alumni, Sam Relton, a few questions about his time with the Numerical Linear Algebra Group.

srelton.jpg

Please can you introduce yourself and tell us a bit about your experience before attending University of Manchester?

I was always pretty good at maths, because I liked understanding how things worked, and so I went to Manchester for my BSc. During that course I really enjoyed the numerical analysis and linear algebra modules because they underpin how all other mathematics is implemented in practice. I loved living in Manchester so I wanted to stick around, and I was lucky enough to be able to skip an MSc and go straight to a PhD in the NLA group.

What was your PhD thesis on?

My thesis was supervised by Nick Higham and called “Algorithms for Matrix Functions, their Frechet Derivatives, and Condition Numbers”. It consisted of four research papers covering theoretical and algorithmic advances in the computation of matrix functions, all woven together. Along with Nick, a few of these papers were co-authored with Awad Al-Mohy (a previous PhD student of Nick’s who was interested in similar problems).

Why did you choose to study your PhD in Manchester?

Manchester is a world-leading research group for numerical linear algebra and it was a privilege to learn from (and work with) the greatest researchers in the field. This also opens up a lot of opportunities in terms of attending conferences, visiting other institutions, and when looking for postdoctoral positions. Manchester is also a fantastic place to live, with plenty going on and a thriving community of PhD and post-doc researchers. I also had a few friends studying other courses that I shared a house with during my undergraduate degree and PhD.

How did you find Manchester?

I loved Manchester, it’s a large busy city full of interesting things to see and do whilst the cost of living is nowhere near that of London. Despite that, you can easily get into the countryside with a 30 minute drive! The maths department was brilliant with plenty of strong research groups to chat with, lots of seminars to attend, and a friendly and open atmosphere between all the staff and students.

Can you tell us about your career since leaving Manchester?

After doing a BSc, PhD, and 2 post-docs in high-performance computing at Manchester I decided to try something new. I now work in the School of Medicine at Leeds, applying complex statistical models and machine learning to electronic healthcare records (taken from GP and hospital databases) with collaborators in the School of Computing. Statistics and machine learning are really just a practical application of linear algebra / HPC, so much of what I learnt during my years in Manchester is still very relevant! Working with large interdisciplinary teams of doctors and nurses is an interesting change, and it’s nice to have direct impact on NHS policy decisions.

Our Alumni – Edvin Hopkins

In this blog post, we asked one of our alumni, Edvin Hopkins, a few questions about his time with the Numerical Linear Algebra Group.

Craig Lucas

Please can you introduce yourself and tell us a bit about your experience before attending University of Manchester?

I obtained my BA in Mathematics from the University of Cambridge in 2005 and remained there for a few more years to do a PhD in numerical relativity. My association with the University of Manchester began in 2010, when I joined the NLA group as a KTP Associate, working on a joint project with NAG to implement some of the NLA group’s matrix function algorithms for the NAG Library.

Why did you choose to work with the University of Manchester?

The project I was involved in was a great opportunity to bridge the gap between academia and industry and to work with world leaders in their fields.

How did you find Manchester?

Well, I’m still there! It has really grown on me in the past few years, and is a great place to work.

Can you tell us about your careers since leaving Manchester?

At the end of the KTP project I continued in the NLA group as a post doctoral research associate, working with Professor Nick Higham for a year and half on his ERC-funded project on matrix functions. I then returned to work for NAG (in their Manchester office) which is where I am now. NAG still has very strong links with the University of Manchester and with the NLA group in particular.

What is your current role?

I am a Technical Consultant at NAG. My work involves implementing mathematical algorithms for the NAG Library, and high performance computing consultancy projects.

Our Alumni – Craig Lucas

In this blog post, we asked one of our alumni, Craig Lucas, a few questions about his time with the Numerical Linear Algebra Group.

Craig Lucas

Please can you introduce yourself and tell us a bit about your experience before attending University of Manchester?

I came to study Mathematics a little later than usual. I was a technician civil engineer working in land reclamation in Staffordshire and needed a change! I was always told I was good at maths and thought at 27 I should get a degree. I am very grateful to Graham Bowtell  at City University who took a chance on someone without A-levels. I developed an interest in Numerical Analysis and computing and wanted to take my study as far as I could. That brought me to Manchester for an MSc, and ultimately a PhD.

What was your PhD thesis on?

My thesis, supervised by Nick Higham, was “Algorithms for Cholesky and QR Factorizations, and the Semidefinite Generalized Eigenvalue Problem.” Arguably a rag bag of algorithms building on my MSc experience of symmetric matrices. I also met and worked with Sven Hammarling on QR updating. He then worked for NAG, as I do now.

Why did you choose to study your PhD in Manchester?

During my MSc I realised I was working with world leaders in their field. It wasn’t a difficult decision to stay on for a PhD, in fact, I felt incredibly lucky to have that opportunity.

How did you find Manchester?

I hated it! I had come up from London and it felt that a whole new world. I wasn’t used to strangers talking to me in the street! However, after about 18 months the place really started to grow on me, and now, nearly 20 years later, I can’t imagine living anywhere else. We have an incredible arts scene, fantastic restaurants, brilliant transport links and a cost of living that makes living back in London seem ridiculous.

Can you tell us about your career since leaving Manchester?

Firstly I never really left. In the 15 years since I finished my PhD I have taught on my old MSc, supervised students and several KTP projects jointly with the Numerical Linear Algebra group. After my PhD, I went to work in research computing at Manchester first, in high performance computing (HPC.) Then just over 10 years ago I joined NAG where I could use both my numerical analysis and HPC skills.

What is your current role?

I run NAG’s Manchester Office, which is a rather nice penthouse on Portland Street with a roof terrace, and the HPC team here. I am supervising my third KTP, involved in running NAG’s contribution to the EU POP project and every now and then write some mathematical software.

Our Alumni – Lijing Lin

In this blog post, we asked one of our alumni, Lijing Lin, a few questions about her time with the Numerical Linear Algebra Group.

Lijing Lin at PhD graduation

Please can you introduce yourself and tell us a bit about your experience before attending University of Manchester?

 I obtained my BSc from Nanjing University of Aeronautics and Astronautics and MSc from Fudan University in China, before coming to Manchester to study for my PhD in 2007.

What was your PhD thesis on?

 The title of my thesis is Roots of Stochastic Matrices and Fractional Matrix Powers. Computing roots of stochastic matrices arises from Markov chain models in finance and healthcare where a transition over a certain time interval is needed but only a transition over a longer time interval may be available. Besides developing new theories, we also developed a package for computing stochastic roots. Fractional matrix powers are more general functions than matrix roots. We developed a new algorithm for computing arbitrary real powers of matrices.

Why did you choose to study your PhD in Manchester?

 I had developed an interest in doing research in Numerical Linear Algebra during my MSc. The NLA group in Manchester is renowned for world-leading expertise in this area, and is one of the best places in the world to study and do research.

How did you find Manchester?

 I have studied, worked and lived in Manchester for over 11 years now. It is exciting, diverse and welcoming–a city that keeps growing and never stops surprising me.

Can you tell us about your career since leaving Manchester?

 After graduating, I continued working in Manchester as a Research Associate. With a solid background in NLA, my research now has moved toward machine learning, probabilistic modelling, and statistics.

What is your current role?

 I am currently a Turing PDRA in predictive healthcare. We are building prognostic models that allow consideration of “what if” scenarios to explore the effects of interventions, e.g. how would a person’s risk of getting heart attack change if he started or quit smoking now.

Weijian Zhang Awarded PhD for Work on Evolving Graphs

Congratulations to our PhD student Weijian Zhang for being awarded his PhD, which was supervised by Nick Higham. We asked him a few questions about his thesis.

Please can you introduce yourself and tell us a bit about your experience before attending University of Manchester?
I was born in Liaoning, China and studied fine arts at the Fine Arts High School Affiliated to China Central Academy of Fine Arts. I graduated with a First Class MMath degree at the University of Manchester in 2014.

What is your thesis on?
My thesis title is “Evolving Graphs and similarity-based Graphs with Applications“. We look at ways to traverse an evolving graph. In particular, we examine the influence of temporal information on node centrality. In the process, we developed EvolvingGraphs.jl, a Julia software package for analysing time-dependent networks. We also developed Etymo Scholar, a search system for discovering interesting research papers.

Why did you choose to study your PhD in Manchester?
I was interested in doing something that relates to both maths and computer science. Numerical Linear Algebra looked like a perfect fit for me. I was very fortunate to be able to join Professor Nick Higham’s research group, which is a world-renowned research group in Numerical Linear Algebra.

How did you find Manchester?
Manchester is a vibrant city and the University of Manchester offers fantastic support for research students. All in all, it is a great place for doing research.

What’s your next step?
I have just joined Conversocial, a leading social customer service solution provider, as a Machine Learning Engineer / Data Scientist in London.

Weijian Zhang