Tristan Pryer

‘It’s more important that you enjoy what you do than you are good at it because this gives you the motivation to continue and persevere in your career and life in general.’

Occupation: Associate Professor of Numerical Analysis and Scientific Computing

Academic Interests: Numerical Analysis and Fluid Dynamics

Personal Interests: Fatherhood, walking in the countryside, cooking, gaming

Member of: London Mathematical Society (LMS) & Institute of mathematics & its applications (IMA)

Childhood and Education

As a child, Tristan indulged himself in all things space and sci-fi. What’s that? Was he a fan of Star Trek? Well duh! Of course he was! He read books, watched TV shows and was fascinated by the wondrous workings of space. Tristan always showed enthusiasm for learning more – he wanted to know whether there was any truth behind the existence of the mesmerising transporters and phasers that appeared on his TV screen. Eager to satisfy his curiosity, Tristan found ‘The Science of Star Trek’ – a book which gave insight into the background behind the events in the show. And here began his journey into science (sort of)!

Speaking in terms of personal role models, Tristan recalls when he met a lovely man named Alan. Alan devoted his time to helping and supporting children from disadvantaged families. He would pick up children from the neighbouring community and take them to do once in a lifetime activities that they wouldn’t otherwise get to do. Tristan himself even got to travel on the orient express and has fond memories of being driven around in Alan’s James Bond style Jag! Fancy that! When Tristan was entering the grammar school (that he oh so hated), Alan even paid for his school uniform. What a lovely man huh? The world needs more Alans!

Among some of his earlier interests, Tristan was intrigued by cars. Hmm… I wonder if Alan’s Jag had anything to do with that? Building up his knowledge of the basic mechanics mostly through self-teaching, he spent his spare time as a student taking apart cars and putting them back together again. Blimey… I just about know how to check the tyre pressures! He loved his fleet – 2 minis and a kit car – and was proud to drive them around. He was right, too! His passion served as a welcome break from his mentally draining studies as he enjoyed engaging in the physical fitness and coordination this work demanded. I bet! Anything is a welcome break from frazzled brain symptoms.

Those of you who know Tristan will be familiar with his natural ability not only to solve complex theoretical problems in mathematics but also to convey workings to an audience who may (ok in my case, definitely!) have little understanding. Some of you may wonder, was he always this good? Actually, yes. Tristan showed high potential all throughout his education. Why? Because his interest was in learning. His curiosity motivated him to work hard to achieve the answers he so desperately wanted to find. In doing so, he was phased by very little – – other than the fact he hated grammar school.

Tristan’s talent for solving mathematical problems presented itself relatively early on when he sat his GCSE a year early and even took an A Level module whilst studying for his other GCSEs! Much to his mother’s dismay, head strong and daring young Tristan decided enough was enough after completing his GCSEs and self-enrolled on a college course without parental consent. Ooh bet you didn’t see that one coming ey? Well newsflash people, our teachers and lecturers are actually normal people, like us – they can be rebels too! College made Tristan much happier, he loved the independence and his self-discipline and self-motivation began to grow. Yay! See? It was all worth it Mrs P. Though Mathematics didn’t pose much of a challenge for him, his favourite subject – Chemistry – did. Tristan studied Chemistry from an early age and loved it, sitting both the GCSE and A Level in just one year! Whaaat?! I struggled to sit my standard GCSEs, never mind having to think about A Level gobbledygook (as it was to me at the time). However, despite enjoying the laboratory work, he found he couldn’t quite get the knack for accuracy and precision. Although it had been the subject he was most interested in, Tristan felt he didn’t hold the level of ability he believed was required for a Chemistry degree and decided not to progress any further.

From here, Tristan was offered a full person scholarship to Cambridge! Yep, he’s a Cambridge graduate… Just kidding! Yes, he was offered the scholarship but he turned it down! Totally not his style. Instead, he took a year out and raised some funds to get through uni, topping them up with his part time work in the first couple years of study. His various part time roles including retail work and pizza delivery driving helped him realise what he did not want to do in the future! Tristan loved studying at the University of Sussex where he achieved a master’s degree in MMath and a PhD. How did Tristan choose what to study? Well, he didn’t really. As he puts it he ‘chose not to choose’ and went with what he believed was a desirable degree in a subject he was good at. I mean who could blame him? Many of us are guilty of it! Tristan thoroughly enjoyed the research he was involved in and the great people he spoke to who shared similar views and ideas, though he struggled with the elitist attitude present in some at university. He threw himself into life there, actively getting involved in the staff student forum, seminars and outreach activities.

Career

After his PhD, Tristan was a postdoctoral research associate at the University of Kent for 3 years. Here, Tristan was given the flexibility to do what he wanted and so he developed his own course from scratch and ran his own lectures. He showed willingness and worked hard towards achieving his Postgraduate Certificate in Higher Education despite the fact this wasn’t a necessity at this level! Ambitious as always, Tristan! He was totally inspired by his supervisor who is heavily involved in London Mathematical Society’s Women in Mathematics. Fab!

In 2013, Tristan joined the maths department at the University of Reading. Primarily, his research is focused on numerical analysis, however he often explores many other areas. In particular, he is interested in fluid dynamics. One of the bigger questions he’s researching and trying to answer at the moment is based around aeroplanes travelling faster than the speed of sound and breaking the sound barrier. This work (as does a lot of his other work) involves getting the computer to solve the problems. For the main part, Tristan deals with “computational models for partial differential equations arising in fluids and plasmas”. As you will see through some of his publications listed at the bottom, he specifically looks at methods such as discontinuous Galerkin methods and finite element methods. As well as this, his research delves into calculus of variations and modelling of geophysical flows in weather and climate.

Aside from his research duties at the university, Tristan has held other responsibilities such as Admissions Tutor along with various roles in the Centre for Doctoral Training in the Mathematics of Planet Earth including Director of MRes studies, PhD director of studies and Interim Deputy and he also line manages post docs through grants! Where does he find the time? A time turner perhaps? Oh no wait, that’s Hermione Granger. Oopsie! Tristan’s favourite part of the job is witnessing graduations, interacting with students, teaching, sharing stories and experiences and seeing students become a success. And with that, he leaves you with a little piece of advice…

‘It’s important to find a niche topic that you enjoy. I enjoyed chemistry but didn’t think I was good enough to do it – in hindsight I think I would’ve been able to at least do a degree in it. It’s more important that you enjoy what you do than you are good at it because this gives you the motivation to continue and persevere in your career and life in general. Find a job where you can have fun and you won’t be bored.’

Awards and Achievements

  • Achieved a grant of £125,000 from EPSRC for 2 years
  • Formed an organisation consisting of a collaborative body of international early career researchers
  • Awarded for his extraordinary efforts in organising a 2 day academic conference for CDT
  • Received an early career research prize award

Publications

Below is a list of Tristan’s favourite publications, to name but a few:

Lakkis, T. Pryer. A finite element method for second order nonvariational elliptic problems. SIAM Journal of Scientific Computing, 2011.

Pryer. On the finite element approximation of infinity-harmonic functions. To appear in Proceedings A of the Royal Society of Edinburgh.

Giesselmann, T. Pryer. A Posteriori Analysis for Dynamic Model Adaptation in Convection Dominated Problems. To appear in Mathematical Models and Methods in Applied Sciences.

References

  1. Face to face interview
  2. https://sites.google.com/site/tmpryer/home
  3. http://www.reading.ac.uk/maths-and-stats/about/team/dr-tristan-pryer.aspx
  4. http://mpecdt.org/people/