Finding a study programme after graduating high school is easier said than done. Erwin Luesink, Applied Mathematics alumnus, can also confirm that. He was interested in physics, mathematics and chemistry. After graduating from the broad Bachelor's in Advanced Technology, he seized the opportunity to study Applied Mathematics. Erwin is currently a PhD student in the UK and is involved in forecasting the weather, still using the physical and mathematical methods that he learned during his UT studies.
It's autumn and the weather is whimsical. Everyone keeps a close eye on the weather forecast to see if an umbrella should be taken the next day or if a jacket offers sufficient weather protection. Erwin is not worried about it, he knows how it works. He is currently doing PhD research in the field of weather forecasting, as well as climate and ocean forecasts. The weather is observed, the data is collected and then converted into algorithms that allow supercomputers to calculate and to predict the weather.
This requires a lot of processing power. Can this be done more cheaply by using randomness? How do you convert this randomness (or stochasticity) into a good model? This is done with physical knowledge and the mathematical methods that Erwin gained in his Bachelor's Advanced Technology. Think of Hamiltonian mechanics, group theory, differential geometry or how liquids work. In order to be able to catch the 'errors' in the system, films are made by satellites or airplanes that fly over oceans. By applying the phenomenon of randomness, you can make sure that you can use a model on the supercomputers that uses less time and is therefore cheaper and faster in getting the right results. Eventually you'll get a better prediction of the weather forecast, what the ocean will do or what effect it will have on the climate. This research using randomness via supercomputers can therefore be applied to different themes. Erwin: 'During this PhD research, I work together with 80 colleagues, but also with Professor Bernard Geurts of Applied Mathematics at the University of Twente'.
Erwin chose to study the Bachelor's in Advanced Technology (AT) at UT. Erwin: “During the AT programme, mathematics, chemistry and physics are discussed and you can find out where your passion lies. The broad programme opens up new perspectives, it is very natural to study problems more in-depth and you can easily link to other disciplines.” In the second year he focused on his mathematics courses because he was going to orientate himself in the Applied Mathematics (AM) Master's. Erwin: “It is interesting that you can use mathematical models to determine whether something is right, if it fits the truth. The subjects I liked best were Partial Differential Equations in which fluids are written down, Electricity & Magnetism also fascinated me. For me, the connecting factor between AT and AM was the project Engineering of Complex Systems. In a challenging way you had to deal with manipulations, modelling pictures and you could do something special with them quite quickly. Think of abstract formulations in practical or pragmatic applications. Mathematics and physics were fully covered. My choice for a master's was made.”
Therefore, Erwin carried out his bachelor's assignment for the mathematicians Van Gils and Meijer of the department of Applied Mathematics. ‘I did a tough job at Applied Mathematics: modelling epilepsy. A very nice, but certainly difficult problem. The complicated thing is to learn how a brain works. In addition to mathematics and physics, you also have to deal with biology and the human body. I learned how epilepsy develops and how it can be better maintained for the patient. Very interesting of course and I learned a lot from it', Erwin says.
“I've had a wonderful student life. I lived in the city, 15 minutes by bike from the campus. I was a member of the study associations of Astatine (AT) and Abacus (AM) and I was a member of the Happy Hour committee. Here, I mastered the art of draughting beer. During my time at Audentis, one of the student associations at the UT, I composed an almanac with fellow members. In addition to these 'fun activities', I have also been active in my Advanced Technology programme and helped out with the Open Days, as student mentor and in the introduction period Kick-In. And in between I tried to win soccer games with my team members. A good time, with lots of good memories.”
“I'm still busy for one and a half years with my PhD research at Imperial College in London. I really like doing scientific research, but working as a PostDoc doesn't seem so appealing to me. Every time you'll be working somewhere else for a short time, and I do not really want a short term job. I like to get my teeth into a big project that will keep me busy for a long time. Of course, the business world is also an option, perhaps a job within a company like ASML in the Netherlands. But who knows what will happen in the next one and a half years, maybe my opinion will change and I will decide for something completely different.’