"What I love about the applied side is that you get to see familiar phenomena through a completely different lens."

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Student Profile: Hannah Potgieter

Applied and Computational Mathematics Master's student in the Faculty of Science

December 22, 2020
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I am in the first year of my master's working under the supervision of Dr. Razvan Fetecau and Dr. Steve Ruuth. I have always been drawn to mathematics but it was during my time at Seattle University getting my undergraduate degree that I became particularly fascinated with research in applied mathematics. What I love about the applied side is that you get to see familiar phenomena through a completely different lens. Outside of my studies, I enjoy exploring new places through going rock climbing as well as both ballet and modern dance.

WHY DID YOU CHOOSE TO COME TO SFU?

I attended an academic conference where I heard research presentations given by professors from SFU.  After the conference, I immediately researched more about the graduate programs offered at SFU and discovered it would be great fit for me. There were a lot of professors whose research excited me and I would be able to dive into the research element early in the program while also being able to experience many facets of mathematics through course work. Also, having grown to love Seattle during my undergraduate degree but wanting to experience a new place, the Vancouver area seemed to be the perfect location.

TELL US ABOUT YOUR RESEARCH AND/OR PROGRAM.

My research is on numerical methods for partial differential equations on surfaces. Many natural phenomena can be modeled by partial differential equations, most of which we cannot solve exactly so we need numerical methods. I am working with the infinity Laplacian which is a nonlinear partial differential equation, that has applications in image processing among other things. Considering the infinity Laplacian on surfaces means that existing methods do not suffice. My work seeks to modify numerical methods so that they are suitable for solving the equation on surfaces. The underlying geometry of the surfaces necessitates extra care and requires additional nontrivial adjustments to results which are integral to the solvers.

WHAT ARE YOU PARTICULARLY ENJOYING ABOUT YOUR STUDIES/RESEARCH AT SFU?

For me, the most exciting moments are when you learn a piece of information that completely alters the way your thoughts are arranged. Diving into details of why things work as opposed to just how to use something in practice, such as a method for solving or approximating solutions to partial differential equations, has provided me with a lot of these moments. Whenever I think I know something, there is always more to it and uncovering these new layers is what I have enjoyed most thus far in my program.

HAVE YOU BEEN THE RECIPIENT OF ANY MAJOR OR DONOR FUNDED AWARDS?

I am very grateful to have been awarded the Graduate Dean's Entrance Scholarship which allows me to focus more of my time and energy on research and engaging in what is new to me. Additionally, it provides me with an extra boost of motivation in my studies.

Contact Hannah: hpa59@sfu.ca