Sanjeev Seahra is proving that there is a lot more to mathematics than equations that need to be solved.
“People don’t often think of mathematics in the same way as they think of the other sciences like astronomy, where researchers look into telescopes and discover fantastic things about the universe,” says Dr. Seahra, associate professor in the department of mathematics and statistics at the University of New Brunswick. “But in a lot of ways, mathematical truths are an integral part of nature – just like planets, stars, life… everything. And there are a whole lot of them waiting to be discovered,” he says.
He notes that mathematics is at the foundation of most industrial and manufacturing activity, and it underlies important work in engineering, the sciences, and so much more. For him, there is vital work in fuelling mathematical research in the region, and in ensuring strong collaborations across Canada and around the world.
On July 1, he begins a four-year appointment as director of the Atlantic Association for Research in the Mathematical Sciences (AARMS), which exists to support and sustain the mathematical sciences at all levels in the Atlantic region. Its programs range from outreach to schools and the public, to advanced research in universities and industry.
“AARMS acts as Atlantic Canada’s voice on the national level when it comes to the mathematical sciences and their broader and growing importance to society,” says Vlad Tasic, chair of mathematics and statistics at UNB Fredericton. “That Sanjeev will speak on our behalf for the next four years is great news for UNB and for Atlantic Canada.”
The association provides an important link to national and international research by bringing major conferences and workshops to the region. Here at home, it works to connect researchers with industry, to foster fruitful collaborations, and provide unique support to mathematicians studying fundamental problems.
The association also plays a number of other key roles, including the facilitation of a spectrum of outreach programs aimed at nurturing an understanding and enthusiasm for mathematics in the wider community. These include graduate students visits to public schools, university faculty visits to aboriginal communities, and the funding of a postdoctoral fellow coordinating outreach activities throughout Atlantic Canada.
Investing in fundamental research in this region also helps from keeping the best and brightest from leaving Atlantic Canada, Dr. Seahra notes.
“High-quality students are attracted to high-quality research. Vigorous and vibrant local work in the mathematical sciences undoubtedly makes students think twice before heading off to somewhere else. The world-class mathematics that AARMS supports not only brings talented people to the region as postdoctoral fellows, it also helps stem the brain-drain effect,” he says.
Dr. Seahra’s own interest in mathematics and physics draws from a young age, when he could often be found at Toronto’s McLaughlin Planetarium near his hometown of Brampton, amazed by gravity and the universe.
No longer the little boy at the planetarium, Dr. Seahra now studies various aspects of gravitational theory at the University of New Brunswick.
“Currently, we are not quite sure how gravity operates on the largest and smallest scales,” says Dr. Seahra, who has been teaching and researching at UNB since 2010. “It’s pretty amazing that we don’t understand something so basic about the universe. And I find it unfathomable that we wouldn’t try to figure it out.”
Media contact: David Stonehouse