Taming big data

A new institute on the maths of information has just been launched at the Faculty of Mathematics in Cambridge, which is also the home of Plus. Led by Carola-Bibiane Schönlieb, the Cantab Capital Institute for the Mathematics of Information (CCIMI) will explore fundamental mathematical problems and methods for understanding, analysing, processing and simulating data.

The need to understand big data, as the mass (and sometimes mess) of information that arises in the modern world is called, comes up in all sorts of different contexts: from the biomedical sciences to finance, the internet, software and hardware development and security, and image processing, to name just a few. The mathematical tools needed to analyse big data are likely to be the same across subject boundaries, but draw on lots of different areas of mathematical expertise — not just statistics, the area of maths that traditionally deals with data, but also seemingly unrelated areas such as geometry and topology. The Cambridge maths department, home to mathematicians and physicists working in a wide range of fields, is a great host for the new institute, which will also work with experts outside of maths, such as economists and social scientists.

We look forward to reporting on CCIMI's activities, but in the meantime you can find out more about Carola-Bibiane Schönlieb's own work in the two videos below and in the article What the eye can't see. To find out more about the launch of CCIMI, including Stephen Hawking's praise for it, see this news story. And to find out more about big data and the challenges involved, read this article.

In the following short interview Schönlieb tells us why she likes doing maths, recalls some of her favourite mathematical moments, and explains why creativity is essential in mathematics:

And below is a video of a lecture Schönlieb gave to an audience of 16-17 year-old girls at the University of Cambridge. It gives an insight into some of the mathematics behind image analysis and its wide-ranging applications in fields ranging from developing cancer therapies to restoring artworks, together with some personal reflections on Schönlieb's own career journey through mathematical study and research.