Downtown tonight: WWU's Stephen McDowall talks about practical uses of sophisticated mathematics

Western Washington University Professor Stephen McDowall will present “The X-Ray Vision of Mathematics” from 7 to 8:30 p.m. Wednesday, May 12, at the Bellingham City Council chambers, second floor, Bellingham City Hall, 210 Lottie St.

The lecture, which is free and open to the public, is offered as the third event of the annual Science and the univerCity community science lecture series. It is sponsored by the WWU College of Sciences and Technology, the City of Bellingham, and, along with the other CST outreach programs, ‘Wizards at Western” and the “Leaders in Their Fields,” is also sponsored in part by a grant from the Cherry Point BP refinery.

In numerous situations we seek information about the inside of something which we cannot access, or which we don’t want to destroy. We look for oil deep within the earth, we take x-rays to look for broken bones, and we see the beginning of a new life through ultrasound imaging. To get more information and better images we need to turn to sophisticated mathematics, which form the basis of imaging methodologies such as Computed Tomography (CT scans) and Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI). In this talk McDowall will discuss how some of these techniques work, where the mathematics comes in, and where there is need for further research in mathematics.

McDowall earned honors and master’s degrees from the University of Canterbury, Christchurch, New Zealand, and a doctorate from the University of Washington. He was an assistant professor at the University of Rochester from 1998-2001, a visiting researcher at the Mathematical Sciences Research Institute in Berkeley, Calif., in 2001, and has been at WWU since 2002.

“We are pleased again this year to have the support of the City in our efforts to bring programs on important topics in science and technology to the Bellingham community. Furthermore, to have endorsement of our efforts, in the form of support for this series by the BP Corporation, is especially gratifying,” said Arlan Norman, dean of the College of Sciences and Technology. “This is a program for the community, a program that we hope really contributes to the general understanding of many important and exciting topics in today’s complex world of scientific and technological advances.”

McDowall’s presentation will also be taped and rebroadcast on Bellingham BTV 10.

For more information, contact Stephen McDowall, WWU associate professor of Mathematics, at (360) 650-4272, or by e-mail at