Dr Rob Sturman

I am an applied mathematician, and my main research field is dynamical systems, chaos theory, and applications to fluid mixing problems. For years I've also been interested in the many links between mathematics and music. People often notice that these subjects fit well together, and for me, the reason is clear: both are concerned with the understanding and manipulation of patterns. Mathematics can be used to explore many aspects of music, including tuning, harmony, rhythm, compositional structure, acoustics, psychology and performance. Both mathematics and music are fundamentally creative.

My musical history is long and varied. I've been a tenor in many choirs in Bristol, London, Cambridge and Leeds. I play the piano, organ and tuba, and I used to conduct the student union choir in Leeds. I know that when I am reading, playing or singing music, I am exercising the same part of my mind that thinks about mathematics. After all, the 17th century mathematician Gottfried Leibniz said, "Music is the pleasure the human mind experiences from counting without being aware that it is counting."

With colleagues in the School of Music, I designed the Mathematics and Music degree at Leeds to allow coherent pathways through the programme - for example, pairing the applied mathematics of Fourier theory and differential equations with music technology and acoustics; or allowing musical composition to be complemented by the pure mathematical structures of group theory and abstract algebra. There is even a module which explores directly the connections and synergies between mathematics and music. Writing and delivering this module over the last few years was, and is, one of my favourite parts of my job.

Find out more
To find out more about my research activities, the students I am supervising and some of my recent publications visit my staff page.