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The University of Bath's maths department has been awarded a £1m grant to fund multidisciplinary research into complex systems. The money is earmarked for a new Institute of Complex Systems, and is the largest ever grant made to a mathematics department.

The new Institute will bring together researchers from maths, statistics, engineering, physics and biology, to establish a collaborative approach to modelling complex systems, such as the development of disease, and the behaviour of materials under electrical impulse.

Systems like these are governed by the behaviour of their smallest components, on a micro scale. Despite this, when considered as a whole or from a macro scale, many complex systems exhibit similar behavioural patterns. This means that a fundamental discovery about one system can impact many areas of science.

Professor Chris Budd, a mathematical scientist, and Professor Giles Hunt, a mechanical engineer will head the institute. They will be able to draw on about 30 university staff and five specially recruited post-doctoral researchers.

Professor Budd said that research into complex multi-scale systems had been "an under-represented area of science in the UK compared with other leading scientific nations".

The University clearly wants to establish this institute as a long term project. There are plans to host lecturers and scientists from academia and industry, to create a forum for local and international scientists to meet and to exchange ideas.

The £1m grant will fund the institute for five years, starting in January 2005. The money comes from the Engineering Physics Scientific Research Council (EPSRC) and the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC). After the initial period, the Institute should be self sustaining, funding itself through future projects, grants and contracts for its research work.

"The idea is to establish a self-supporting viable research unit which will look into a fundamental and vital aspect of many scientific areas," Professor Budd concluded. ®

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