Tom Banks: Solving Problems With Mathematical Modeling

I’m Tom Banks. I’m director of the Center for Research and Scientific Computation, and I’m also the LeRoy Martin Chair in mathematics. All of our work is pretty much joint. We insist on working with somebody who has a problem. We look at the problem and say, “we think mathematics can help there.” It’s our job to figure out how mathematics can enhance what they’re trying to do. Quite often we have to develop a new computational technique, and no model’s perfect, but models can help you understand natural phenomena or unnatural phenomena, whether it’s people or whether it’s individual organisms. It’s all about cause and effect, trying to use mathematics to tease out the answers to what causes what, who does what to whom, right. Undergraduates, graduate students, postdocs — seeing the growth is probably the most important thing I do. We use mathematical modeling to try to understand complex phenomena that arise in science, and that’s how we think and do at NC State.