Whether you like math or not, it’s likely that there’s been a time where you thought it was boring. This summer, however, I had the opportunity to work in the Fluids Lab at UNC’s Math Department. While “doing research” in math may sound like an odd statement, it’s a *daily occurrence*. Math isn’t confined to textbooks and theoretical problems. In fact, applied mathematics is an entire field of study devoted to understanding real-world phenomena through the precise rigors of math. Scientists give mathematicians fascinating problems to model, such as how an object moves through water, or how a city’s traffic flows, and in turn, mathematicians use their skills to come up with precise models. Once we have models, we can use them to extrapolate and understand the phenomena even more! Since applied math is inherently practical, it is deeply embedded in a number of other fields, including physics, chemistry, biology, computer science, and marine science!

Before moving on to how the Fluids lab relates to motion, you should check out some of the **tools of the trade** in math research. This is just a sampling of things being used at UNC – it’s just the tip of the iceberg!

No, they’re not performing LASIK, nor do they intend to zap anyone. Lasers emit a focused stream of light, and allow mathematicians to study optics and refraction. Concepts you've learned from chemistry and physics are handy here!

Whereas chemists might study the reactions between solutions, researchers in fluid mechanics study how fluids affect objects. Fluids like corn syrup, water, and oil all have different viscosities, and so they flow and affect movement differently.

If you want to simulate the forces of the ocean, why not build a wave tank? UNC’s Fluids lab is home to a wave tank more than 120 feet long and a height of more than 30 feet in some areas!

The majority of experiments in the Fluids Lab are performed in smaller tanks. These images were taken from experiments being led by graduate student Sungduk Yu, who works with falling particles. You'll learn about this research on the next page!

If you thought a vehicle cost a lot, try buying a Phantom Camera! With most models costing more than a car, these cameras can take video at more than 1,000 frames per second! High-speed cameras allow mathematicians to track motion.

After mathematicians have obtained all of their data, what do they do with it? A powerful program for scientists and engineers is Matlab. The program allows the user to write code to analyze data. Fluids researchers often used it to process images.