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Welcome to the first MPLS Newsletter of a new decade. I hope that 2020 will be an enjoyable and productive year for us all.

There is no doubt that climate change and sustainability will be at the forefront of our thinking, both this year and for many years to come. The Vice-Chancellor has launched a year-long conversation across the university about sustainability and I hope that colleagues in MPLS will have the opportunity to contribute to it and to support efforts to reduce Oxford’s consumption of resources and production of greenhouse gases. You can read more in this interview with David Prout, Pro-Vice-Chancellor (Planning and Resources).

We are quantitative people in MPLS and so we know that there are various ways of making a big difference. One is for a large number of people to make (at least) a small change to their way of life – switching off devices, turning down the thermostat, cutting back on carbon-intensive food and many others (do have a look online at the carbon footprint of email for some interesting discussions). As individuals, our flying habit is a huge target. 50 hours in the air more or less doubles your yearly carbon footprint, and this is something we can all actively work to reduce, without compromising our vital international links and exposure. Taking the train, using Skype, bundling visits: all of these can help. However, the biggest difference our small numbers can make is through our research on batteries, energy networks, fuel efficiency, catalytic chemistry, plant growth and a host of other topics. These have the potential to lead to widespread and therefore significant change. One of the great pleasures of being Head of Division is hearing about this tremendously exciting work.

A CBE in the Mathematical Institute 

Turning to other matters, I was delighted to see the award of a CBE to Nick Woodhouse in the New Year’s Honours List. Nick was Chairman of the Mathematical Institute for no fewer than nine years, and he spearheaded the campaign that gave us the magnificent Andrew Wiles Building, as well as overseeing tremendous changes in the structure of the department.

Changes in the departments 

We also begin the New Year with some changes to our Heads of Administration and Finance, such a crucial group in making MPLS the wonderful academic environment that it is. Our thanks and good wishes go to Rosie Mortimer, who was HAF in Maths with Nick Woodhouse and then me (Rosie, you were wonderful!) and will be stepping down as HAF in Chemistry around Easter, and to Sarah Parkin, who is moving from the HAF role in Statistics to join the University’s Focus team.  We are recruiting to both these posts, and we have also welcomed Jocasta Gardner to Maths, Louise Botley to Computer Science, and Ian Bishop to Materials, while Jeannie Scott will move to Zoology from the MPLS divisional office next month. Our thanks also go to Rachel Meyrick, outgoing HAF in Maths, to Sharon Backer-Holst, who has moved from the HAF role in Computer Science to join one of their spin-out companies, and to Malcolm Bradbury who covered the gap between Sharon’s departure and Louise’s arrival. 

Finally, don’t forget to come along to the MPLS Winter Reception on the 11th of February: banish the winter blues with some great Research highlights and a glass of wine! 

Sam Howison  

Head of MPLS Division