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Professor Hannah Fry lecture marks the opening of Abacws

28 April 2022

Mathematician and TV presenter Professor Hannah Fry has delivered a guest lecture to mark the opening of Cardiff University’s brand new Abacws building.

In front of a packed-out crowd, Professor Fry shared extraordinary tales about what is happening at the very cutting edge of data science and how mathematics is shaping the society we live in today.

The special event marked the opening of Abacws, a brand-new, world-leading facility home to Cardiff University’s School of Computer Science and Informatics and School of Mathematics.

Situated on Sengenhydd Road next to Cathays railway station, the six-storey building has pioneered a new way of working for Cardiff University, focusing on collaboration and a shared vision, whilst at the same time maintaining the individual identities of the two Schools housed within Abacws.

The £39m building spans 10,000 sq metres and was designed in collaboration with students and academic staff to create interdisciplinary, flexible, and creative workspaces, with innovative teaching areas.

Spaces for industrial partners to engage with students are also present, along with a makerspace and IT workshop to support practical computer science projects, a new simulated Trading Room for financial mathematics, and state-of-the-art teaching and research labs for cybersecurity, human-centred computing and the Internet of Things

Delivering the talk, entitled ‘The Joy of Data’, in Abacws’s 250-seater lecture theatre, Professor Fry captivated the audience with a host of surprising and delightful stories told through the eyes of data, and how a data science view of what it means to be human can shape the way we design our society, from dating and healthcare, to catching serial killers.

Winner of the prestigious Zeeman Medal for her work in engaging the UK public with mathematics, Professor Fry is a trusted and well-recognised presenter alongside her role as Professor in the Mathematics of Cities at the Centre for Advanced Spatial Analysis at University College London.

Her expertise is regularly called upon to develop and host documentaries and her fun and lively radio programmes, podcasts and books have a large and devoted following.

Speaking after the event, Professor Fry said: “It was a real privilege to be invited to Cardiff University to deliver the lecture and to do so in such a wonderful setting. The Abacws building is something the university should be proud of and I’m sure the staff and students will relish the opportunity to work here.

“It was also really inspiring to see the audience so engaged with what I had to say and to be given the opportunity to sing the praises of data, mathematics and science more generally in front of such a captivated audience, because data really is at the heart of who we are as human beings.”

Vice-Chancellor Professor Colin Riordan said: “It was an absolute pleasure to welcome Professor Fry to the University to mark the opening of Abacws and to listen to such a fascinating and insightful talk.

“Making sense of the vast amounts of data at our disposal will be key to solving many of the challenges we face in society and will require a collaborative and innovative approach that spans both computer science and mathematics.

“It is this interdisciplinary, joined-up nature of working that is the cornerstone of Abacws, and I am delighted that the doors have now been opened to our students and staff so that they can make use of the excellent facilities and that new relationships and ways of working can flourish.”

The guest lecture was one of several events that took place over the course of the month to mark the official opening of Abacws, including a ‘Game of Codes’ competition in which school children from across Wales were tasked with creating a piece of software under the theme of ‘Combatting Climate Change’.

Shortlisted entries from the competition were invited to a ‘Game of Codes’ final day at Abacws to showcase their work, with the winners then invited to attend to Dr Fry’s lecture.

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