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Spotlight on Science

Left to right: Mélisande Fortin-Boisvert, Steven Rayan, Prof. Niky Kamran, Dennis The, and François Bolduc.

Dr. Niky Kamran and his research group: the beauty of math

Dr. Niky Kamran, Professor in the Mathematics department at McGill, studies black holes. A black hole is created by the collapse of a dead star into a point perhaps no larger than a marble and its mass is so dense that anything entering it cannot escape. Professor Kamran uses general relativity and the known properties of waves, such as light, to predict the behaviour of a black hole in response to incoming waves. Incoming waves can disturb black holes and mathematics can predict not only how they are disturbed but also how long it takes for a black hole to return to its former state, if at all.

François Bolduc, a new PhD student in the mathematics department enjoys being able to take courses that are interesting and relevant to his research. McGill mathematics students can choose courses from any of Montreal's four universities. Another great aspect of graduate student life for François is teaching. Graduate students in the mathematics department can work with a Professor as a teaching assistant and can also lead certain courses by themselves.

"One thing that I find interesting is that at the graduate level, you see the boundaries between pure and applied mathematics being crossed", says Dennis The, a 4th year PhD student with Prof. Niky Kamran. "At the undergraduate level, pure and applied mathematics are often taught very separately," he says.

Mélisande Fortin-Boisvert, currently a PhD student in the mathematics department, works with Prof. Niky Kamran. "During my undergraduate, I discovered the beauty of a proof," she says. Mélisande was interested in both physics and mathematics, and now combines these interests in her graduate studies.

Author: Amanda Parmar, Post-doctoral fellow (Polypeptide Laboratory) and WARM-SPARK writer

Photograph: Owen Egan 2006