Assistant Adjunct Professor (Program in Computing)

PhD, Applied Mathematics, University of British Columbia, 2015

Department of Mathematics,
University of California, Los Angeles

Email: M I K E L at math dot ucla dot edu Phone: 310 825 3049 Office: Mathematical Sciences 5622

Contents

Hi! My name is Mike. Thanks for visiting my webpage. Here's what you can find on this page:

About Me

Academic:

I'm an Assistant Adjunct Professor for the Program in Computing at the University of California, Los Angeles, and an NSERC Postdoctoral Fellow. I completed my doctor of philosophy at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, BC, Canada. Having reached the "other side" in that I'm no longer a grad student has its perks, but like being a grad student, this is only a temporary position and I don't know where I'll be after this.

My main responsibilities include research (see some of my topics of interest below) and teaching programming courses.

I've always enjoyed the applications of math more than the theories, although theory can be both useful and beautiful. I've worked on a variety of applied projects, with a few currently underway - see the research portion of this page for details of the various projects. To be very brief, the problems I'm currently working on are:

studying how the flow of viscous fluids is affected by the concentration of large particles suspended in the fluids and the inclination angle,

exploring how nutrients are absorbed into the human body, and

investigating the effect of PEDF in Osteogenesis Imperfecta VI (Brittle Bone Disease).

These projects combine many fascinating mathematical fields including ordinary and partial differential equations, asymptotic analysis (analytic approximation schemes), and numerical analysis (studying how the problems can be coded and accurately solved with a computer). At the end of the day, though, being able to say something about the real world is what motivates me most (although the math is super cool!!!).
Personal:

I grew up in Winnipeg, Manitoba—the mosquito capital of Canada... also famous for the fantastically cold winters, which I am pleasantly reminded of each year when I go back to see family and friends over the break. I completed my university education in the beautiful city of Vancouver, BC, with tons of beautiful parks and hiking trails in close proximity. I'll miss Vancouver's excellent public transit system, delicious sushi, and amazing simultaneous views of the mountains and ocean, but I'm sure LA will be cool, too! I'm already impressed by the delicious vegetarian food and the number of juice bars. And there's actually really nice weather in the winter (I prefer it to the summer).

I really like hiking and being out in nature. Some other interests include: classical music - many pieces by Beethoven, Vivaldi, Mozart, Bach, Handel, or even traditional Sufi and Andean music; languages (French and I know a little Mandarin); cats (they are such amazing creatures); healthy eating, including organic/raw/vegan/fermented foods, green juices, local and sustainable food; baking both raw and conventional; and meditation (I have been teaching meditation and related metaphysical practices for a number of years as a volunteer).

I'm also a fan of Piled Higher and Deeper comics (reasonaby accurate depictions of what it's like to be a grad student - so many memories...).

Teaching and Related Work

Teaching Positions

I am currently teaching courses at UCLA. Prior to this, I taught for 6 years at UBC.

The courses I teach and have taught are listed below:

Future:

Math 142 (mathematical modelling), Summer Session C 2017, UCLA

Current:

PIC 10A (intro to programming, C++), Spring Quarter 2017, UCLA

Math 199 (experiments with polydisperse particle-laden flow), Spring Quarter 2017, UCLA - co-instructed with David Arnold and Claudia Falcon

Past:

Math 142 (mathematical modelling), Winter Quarter 2017, UCLA

Math 142 (mathematical modelling), Summer Session C 2016, UCLA

PIC 40A (programming for the internet), Spring Quarter 2016, UCLA

PIC 10A (intro to programming, C++), Spring Quarter 2016, UCLA

PIC 10A (intro to programming, C++), Winter Quarter 2016, UCLA

PIC 10A (intro to programming, C++), Autumn Quarter 2015, UCLA

Math 105 (integral calculus for commerce and social sciences), Term 2, Winter 2014-2015, UBC.

Math 448 (directed studies in mathematics), Summer 2014, UBC.

Math 215 (ordinary differential equations), Term 2, Winter 2013-2014, UBC.

Math 104 (differential calculus for commerce and social sciences), Term 1, Winter 2012-2013, UBC.

Math 105 (integral calculus for commerce and social sciences), Term 2, Winter 2011-2012, UBC.

Math 103 (integral calculus for life sciences), Term 2, Winter 2010-2011, UBC.

Math 101 (integral calculus for physical sciences), Term 2, Winter 2009-2010, UBC.

Letters of Recommendation:
I feel I should include a short word on writing letters of recommendation. Some things to keep in mind if you ask me to write a letter:

You may be better off getting a letter from a tenured faculty member with years of established research instead of myself. Getting a letter from someone well-known has its advantages.

I need several weeks' notice, ideally a month or two. The less time I have, the lower the quality of letter I may be able to write for you and the more likely I will need to decline.

I can only write a strong academic letter for a student who earned EITHER an A or A+ in a course I have taught; the story is different for students I mentor in research since there generally isn't a mark assigned. Without an A or A+, I cannot use statements such as "top of the class", "mastered the material", etc.

It wouldn't hurt if I knew who you were! Don't stay anonymous. Hopefully I will have spoken to you in person at least a few times in the course.

I need as much information from you as possible: unofficial transcript copies, CV/resume, any/all personal statements you are including in your application, a detailed description of what you are applying for, any deadlines, etc.

Math Education Resources wiki

I was contributor and administrator for the Math Education Resources wiki. This project began as an online database of past UBC Math Exams with hints and solutions, and has steadily expanded to a more complete online learning resource with questions by topic and interactive features. Currently we're doing an education study on the effectiveness of the wiki.

Math Teaching Peer Review

Within the department at UBC, we organized a teaching peer review team. Graduate and postdoctoral instructors could request a peer review of their class. The process was informal and confidential, and involved one of the members of the team meeting with an instructor to discuss any aspects of their teaching they were interested in hearing feedback about, an in-class observation, and a follow-up discussion. Perhaps I'll get around to organizing something like that here, if there's enough interest.

Tutoring

I have a lot of private tutoring experience - since I was in grade 7 I have been tutoring privately. Given my other work committments, it is unlikely I have time to tutor, but you can email me and check my availability. Most of my tutoring experience is in math and physics. My rate is $80/hour for individuals and $120/hour for groups of 2 or more.
I have run some large review sessions for first year math courses at UBC, some of them attended by more than 400 students at a time. Perhaps the problems will be useful for some of you out there looking for review questions. Problems are available here.

Research

Research Experience and Interests

Fluid Flows (current): There are a vast array of interesting phenomena that emerge in studying the flow of viscous fluids, based on the concentration of particles that may be in suspension and the inclination angle. Right now the field is full of open, unanswered problems such as how suspensions behave with multiple mixture components.

Nutrient Absorption (current): Biological processes governing digestion and nutrient assimilation are complex, and mathematical modelling can yield deep, qualitative insights into how the various processes work together when, as with many biological sysems, only few quantiative relationships are known.

Osteogenesis Imperfecta VI (current): OI type 6 is a severe form of brittle bone disease where patients have bones that are both very soft (due to delayed mineralization) and very brittle (due to over mineralization). Researchers of the disease suspect an abnormally low concentration of a protein known as PEDF is responsible for the disease. Through an industrial workshop in Montreal, a group of us began to study the process of bone mineralization and the potential role of PEDF with mathematical models. Our work is very preliminary, but our current model qualitatively predicts the delayed bone development of OI type 6 patients if these patients have a decreased concentration theshhold of calcification-inhibiting enzymes necessary for bone development. Here are slides from our oral report. More work is being done.

Electrodialysis: Some modern plans for water filtration systems that purify salt water and those that can reduce the waste water of fracking use electrodialysis as a means to pass ions through selectively permeable membranes with the help of an electric potential gradient. I was involved in simulating the system under various settings, employing a combination of asymptotics and numerics. A paper that combines the theoretical work with experiment is here.

Superconductors: A superconductor, when in the Meissner state expels magnetic fields from its interior. Very near its surface, there is an exponential decay in field strength that is predicted by the London equation, a special limit of the Ginzburg-Landau equations, provided the surface is flat. In the superconductivity literature, the assumption of a flat interface was taken for granted, but due to experimental measurements of a non-exponential decay in field strength near the surface of a superconductor, experimentalists asked the question of whether small-amplitude perturbations could have an effect on the field profile. This paper presents the results of the analysis undertaken in trying to answer the question. The previous work was extended by using experimental measurements of the superconducting surfaces in the simulations, and the results can be found here.

Mass Spectrometry: A mass spectrometer separates atoms and molecules based on their mass. This has applications in detecting heavy metal or radioactive contaminants in air or water supplies. At a recent problem solving workshop, a group of us worked in collaboration with PerkinElmer on creating a new method of mass spectrometry that allows for continuous measurements of concentrations, without the costly use of magnetic fields. We found that it may be possible to create an electric field configuration that causes periodic oscillations dependent upon mass, which would allow for different chemical species to be separated spatially or detected with Fourier analysis. Our article on the problem is found here.

Nuclear Fusion: Magnetized target fusion is a relatively new idea for producing conditions for hydrogen fusion on earth. The essence of the idea is to confine a plasma in a magnetic field and compress it by an intense pressure-focused pulse so that it yields a high enough particle density and pressure for fusion to take place, releasing energy. A local Canadian research company has a design of such an apparatus that they are currently working on engineering: the plasma is found in an empty region of a vertical central cylindrical axis of a sphere of molten lead-lithium. Pistons deliver an immense pressure on the outer walls of the spherical lead-lithium region, with the pressure growing in magnitude as it reaches the plasma, causing it to compress to a very small radius. Simulating this design requires a careful interplay of plasma physics and fluid dynamics, and reasonable modelling skills. My research interest here is in developing a suitable model, performing numerical simulations for the hyperbolic conservation laws, and doing asymptotic analysis to estimate the influence of various factors on the reactor performance qualitatively and analytically. Here is a paper covering some of the numerical aspects and here is a paper covering some of the asymptotic estimates. Another paper outlining a study of the instabilities associated with asymmetric implosions can be found here.

Gas Diffusion in Fuel Cells: Fuel cells are costly to build, and developing accurate techniques to simulate their performance beforehand is essential in minimizing production costs. Unfortunately, there are many complex processes that take place within a fuel cell, one of the most important processes is gas diffusion. Those in industry who work with numerical simulations are often puzzled as to what formulation to adopt for gas diffusion: Fick (a simple gradient flow often formulated with a single Fick diffusion coefficient) or Maxwell-Stefan (a complex flow rate that depends upon the concentration gradients of all other species and experimentally determined binary diffusivities). The research I have been involved with on this topic was in studying the two formulations in a simple one-dimensional model of a PEMFC gas diffusion layer. Through nondimenzionalization, and a two-term formal asymptotic expansion, the two models provide nearly identical predictions. Furthermore, Fick diffusion is really a special limit of Maxwell-Stefan diffusion and in many industrial applications, the simpler Fick formulation can be used with reasonable precision. A paper explaining these results has been submitted to Heat and Mass Transfer.

Malaria Management: Recently, a fungus has been discovered that could help reduce malaria-prevalence in endemic regions. The fungus infects mosquitoes, but instead of killing them like a pesticide, it kills the malaria that they carry and could transmit to humans. One biological question that arises is, if this fungus is used, should it be engineered to also kill mosquitoes? A few colleagues and I came up with a model of how this fungus could be used in combating malaria, and through studying a model system of ODEs numerically and analytically, we demonstrated that under certain assumptions on the mosquito carrying capacity and growth rate, the fungus should be engineered to have minimal virulence to mosquitoes to have an optimal effect in reducing malaria. Under other assumptions on the carrying capacity, different behaviour can be observed. Our paper has been published by Malaria Journal.

Papers, Proceedings, Theses, etc.

Papers:

Constant Flux, Gravity Driven, Thin-Film, Particle Laden Flow down an Incline: Comparison Between a Suspension Balance Model and Experimentation (2016, in preparation), in collaboration with Jeffrey Wong, Patrick Flynn, Joseph Pappe, Aviva Prins, William Sisson, Samuel Stanton, and Andrea Bertozzi.

Conversion of Saline Water and Carbon Dioxide into Value-Added Chemicals by Electrodialysis (2017, published in Journal of CO2 Utilization), in collaboration with Saad Dara, Joseph English, Arman Bonakdarpour, Brian Wetton, and David Wilkinson.