Professor Robert MacKay

Robert MacKay

In the following table, contact information relevant to the page. The first column is for visual reference only. Data is in the right column.

Job title: Professor of Mathematics
Organisation: University of Warwick
Tags: RISE, RISE: Fellow, University of Warwick

From a young age Robert MacKay’s mother challenged him to understand science and mathematics; she was delighted when he won a scholarship to Cambridge. During his PhD at Princeton he became fascinated with dynamical systems and as a mathematics lecturer at the University of Warwick co-developed the Nonlinear Systems Laboratory. Professor MacKay has held visiting positions at the Institut des Hautes Etudes Scientifiques near Paris, Institut Nonlinéaire de Nice, Université de Bourgogne, Université Libre de Bruxelles and University of Minnesota and worked for four years as a Professor at the University of Cambridge. He is currently a Professor of Mathematics and Director of Mathematical Interdisciplinary Research and the Centre for Complexity Science at Warwick and is a Fellow of the Royal Society of London, of the Institute of Physics and of the Institute of Mathematics and its Applications.

Who are your greatest influences / mentors?

My PhD supervisor John Greene who gave me a great problem and was always ready to respond to my questions or latest results. David Rand who brought me to Warwick. Serge Aubry who presented many stimulating ideas to me.

Do you have any ‘eureka’ moments in your career?

When as a PhD student I saw that one should study renormalisation of quasiperiodicity by a system of two equations, not one. When I constructed a dividing surface for flux over a saddle to understand chemical reaction rates. When I saw the triple linkage in a paper on manifolds and realised I could probably show its dynamics to be the purest form of chaos, beloved by mathematicians but until then unrealised in physics. When I realised that the principle on which the ear works could be mode-conversion. When I realised that gamma-ray bursts could be an optical illusion.

How might your research help tackle future challenges in healthcare / energy / manufacturing etc?

There may be a better statistical state in which the economy or health system could operate; how could one nudge the system to achieve it? Can we develop an energy system like the biological one, with a hierarchy of scales for response time and storage capacity? Can we devise financial regulation that would protect against systemic risk at the same time as encouraging worthwhile investment?