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Pi in the sky


In response to John Tolputt's concerns (NCE last week) about 'obscure mathematical problems' in civil engineering courses, I would like to make the point that many professional civil engineers need an exceptionally high level of analytical ability in order to deal with the diversity and complexity of problems they are commissioned to solve.

The fact that universities in general expose students to high levels of mathematical theory concerning structures, fluids and so on serves to develop these broad skills. Added to which of course no student knows for certain which of these skills will be relevant to their future career until they start work.

In industry I found my own mathematically-oriented engineering training indispensable. Of course I have no idea about the relevance or otherwise of the particular branch of mathematical theory to which he refers, but I cannot imagine many engineering based solutions which are not underpinned by hard mathematical understanding.

Dr Steve Mitchell, Lecturer in hydraulics, school of the environment, University of Brighton

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