You may have had bad memories from mathematics at school, or maybe you liked it and stayed curious about it or even work in a related field. But in any case, you may ask yourselves: why research in mathematics is important?
You may think that we already know all we need to know in mathematics as we are already able, for instance, to make the sophisticated computations required to successfully send a rocket into space to explore other planets.
You might be surprised, but continuing research in mathematics can and will change our lives. And even save lots of human beings.
How could mathematics save lives?
A few years ago, two researchers from the University of Cardiff established a mathematical model of waiting times in health services that has been implemented in several British hospitals. As a consequence, this managed to shorten patient waiting times and increase the efficiency of the Major Trauma Centre and the Hyper Acute Stroke Unit at St George’s Hospital in South London. This reduced the mortality of stroke patients by 60%.
More generally, there is a whole branch of mathematics, called biomathematics, dedicated to understanding biological and physiological processes with a broad range of medical applications.
Mathematics and the Arts
Doing research in mathematics may be also seen as an art, a search of the fundamental beauty and harmony of the universe, like artists searching for beauty and fundamental patterns behind shapes and textures, from painting to music. Mathematicians are seeking patterns too, for example in numbers or shapes.
Indeed, they can describe the beautiful shapes of seashells or their pigmentation patterns using equations, as well as the arrangement of sunflower seeds in spirals or the fractal shapes of Romanesco broccoli.
Mathematics and Artificial Intelligence
Actually, W. W. Sawyer, a 20th century mathematician, even defined mathematics as: “the classification and study of all possible patterns”. And studying patterns can bring new real-world applications. You may have heard about machine learning. This field of artificial intelligence is expanding quickly, with applications like automated face recognition, “intelligent assistant” in smartphones, or search of the best financial investments. These applications are based on detecting patterns in objects (e.g. images, words, or number sequences) by mathematical methods. We can expect interesting outcomes from research in this field.
Why research in mathematics?
With direct practical applications or not, doing research in mathematics is an activity that participates in what makes us humans, like composing music, making movies, or writing books. And this may be in the end the best answer to the question of why we should support it.
As stated by the American Committee on the Mathematical Science in 2025, “Mathematical sciences work is becoming an increasingly integral and essential component of a growing array of areas of investigation in biology, medicine, social sciences, business, advanced design, climate, finance, advanced materials, and much more […]. These activities are crucial to economic growth, national competitiveness, and national security “.
For the future of our society, for better and longer lives, and also just for the pure quest of beauty and truth, we should with no doubt continue doing research in mathematics.