Mathematics, St Andrews
Tenure since 2014
High performance computing with semigroups.
Wilf's research is in mathematics, in the area of computational semigroup theory. In essence, he creates theoretical and practical algorithms which allow calculations to be performed (as efficiently as possible) with semigroups. He does this using mathematical ideas, and tries to incorporate new ideas from computer science, like parallelisation.
Semigroups are a type of algebraic object, and they consist of a set of things (perhaps numbers, or functions, or something else) and a way of combining them in a special way. For instance, the set of whole numbers with addition is a semigroup - but there is a huge variety of other types. You might want to calculate the size of a semigroup, or a generating set perhaps.
One of the main things Wilf is currently interested in is finding an optimal representation of any given semigroup. Semigroups can be stored in a number of ways, but it is often the case that certain types of representation allow for more efficient and speedy calculations. Therefore he'd like to be able to represent semigroups as well as possible.
Wilf attended secondary school at Perth Academy and was awarded the Dux medal in sixth year. He then studied for an MMath in pure mathematics at the University of St Andrews, which he loved. Throughout his undergraduate degree he was awarded a number of prizes, including the Miller Prize for science. This prize is given each year to "the most distinguished student" graduating with a degree in the Faculty of Science.
As an undergraduate, he was twice awarded a Carnegie Vacation Scholarship to undertake research in pure mathematics. He really enjoyed the experience, and it spurred him on to pursue research. This was the time that he first started working with Dr James Mitchell, who is now his PhD supervisor.
Wilf was awarded the Robertson Medal for the academic year 2014-2015.