Mathematics students celebrate Hamilton Day

Mathematics student at Trinity, Andrew Cleary, was one of nine 2019 Hamilton Prize winners to enjoy a day of celebrations recently held to commemorate famed Irish (and Trinity) mathematician William Rowan Hamilton.

Hamilton is best known for an algebraic ‘Eureka moment’ in 1843 that gave rise to the quaternions – a set of complex numbers that operate in four-dimensional space, and which defy the rules of the numbers we use on a daily basis when paying for our shopping or balancing our cheque books.

Quaternions can be thought of as mathematical codes that describe the precise orientation and positioning of objects in space. Chief among these applications is the fine-grained control of modern spaceflight.

Additionally, they are used in molecular dynamics, allowing us to design drugs by targeting specific proteins based on their unique folding patterns, and in directing the spatial rotation of objects and characters in computer simulations and games – the latter application is modelled beautifully by characters such Tomb Raider’s Lara Croft.

This year’s Hamilton Day, held at the Royal Irish Academy, saw Professor Maria Chudnovsky of Princeton University deliver a masterclass. Chaired by Dr Aoibhinn Ní Shúilleabháin, this gave students the opportunity to learn from a leading expert in the field of graph theory.

L-R: Professor Pat Guiry, RIA Science Secretary, Andrew Cleary and Professor Maria Chudnovsky, 2019 Hamilton Speaker from Princeton University.

Hamilton Day celebrations continued with the Hamilton Prize award ceremony, generously sponsored by Ibec, to honour the top nine undergraduate mathematics students in Ireland.

The ceremony took place at Academy House and was attended by family and friends of the recipients, as well as representatives from their university departments and members of the mathematics community in Ireland.

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