"Coding is an important part of my job, and I really enjoy seeing how equations written on a piece of paper come alive on a computer screen."

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Student Profile: Javier Almonacid Paredes

Applied and Computational Mathematics PhD student in the Faculty of Science

December 17, 2020
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I am passionate about solving equations using computational techniques. They are the mathematical expression of real-life phenomena and their solution can give us insight into many unanswered questions. Coding is an important part of my job, and I really enjoy seeing how equations written on a piece of paper come alive on a computer screen.

WHY DID YOU CHOOSE TO COME TO SFU?

When I came to SFU in 2017 for a research visit (still as an undergrad in Chile) at the Department of Mathematics, I met several faculty members whose work matched my background and my research interests. The quality and impact of this work led me to begin graduate studies in the year after. Moreover, as I was continuing with my M. Sc. studies, I noticed that there were faculty members engaged in amazing interdisciplinary projects, such as Prof. Nilima Nigam and her work in collaboration with Prof. James Wakeling (Department of Biomedical Physiology and Kinesiology) on muscle mechanics. After obtaining my M.Sc. degree in 2020, I decided to pursue a Ph.D. degree under their supervision.

TELL US ABOUT YOUR RESEARCH AND/OR PROGRAM.

My main area of research is devoted to solving partial differential equations that appear in real-life contexts. Most of the time, these equations cannot be solved by hand, so we must resort to computational techniques to find a good approximation of their solution. Since 2016, I have been developing these tools to solve problems in areas such as fluid mechanics and wave propagation.

Currently, I am working on improving the efficiency and accuracy of computational simulations of skeletal muscle mechanics. Recent advances in understanding how muscles deform have led to a new mathematical model that views muscles as composite biomaterials, drawing a connection to the deformation of solids. This new model represents a step forward in muscle modelling and includes many features that have been omitted by traditional models from the past century (that are still widely used) and that research has shown to be of utmost importance in describing biomechanical processes.

The existent approach, while promising, is still computationally expensive. Using advanced mathematical tools, the idea is to design more efficient and more accurate computational strategies to bring these three-dimensional simulations to everyday-laptop capabilities. Testing and experimental validation of these new tools will be conducted at the Neuromuscular Mechanics Laboratory (NML) at SFU by an interdisciplinary group of kinesiologists, biomedical physiologists and applied mathematicians.

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

I like that the Department of Mathematics is supportive when students want to explore more the interdisciplinary nature of applied mathematics. Also, I love the sense of community in this department and the NML is an amazing group of people to work with.

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

I received the Special Graduate Entrance Fellowship and the Graduate Fellowship.  For my Ph.D. studies, I was awarded the Graduate Dean Entrance Scholarship. These funds have allowed me to focus even more on developing high-quality research.  

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/javieralmonacid/
Website: https://www.sfu.ca/~javiera