School of Mathematics

John Pearson

The University of Edinburgh The School of Mathematics Room: 6317 James Clerk Maxwell Building, The King's Buildings, Peter Guthrie Tait Road Edinburgh EH9 3FD Scotland
Tel: Work 0131 650 5049


Research Interests

- Preconditioners for PDE-constrained optimization: The development of fast iterative methods for PDE-constrained optimization, and in particular the construction of effective preconditioners for these problems, is an important and challenging research area. A key component of building these preconditioners is in accurately approximating the Schur complement of the matrix system involved, and we find that with such an approximation we are able to build fast and robust solvers for these problems.

- Time-dependent PDE-constrained optimization and applications: As most real-world problems involve time-dependent (and nonlinear) components, it is desirable for any investigation of PDE-constrained optimization to include these elements. This requires the solution of huge-scale matrix systems, even in comparison to those for equivalent time-independent problems. We find that our methodology can be readily applied to many such problems, which also opens the door to application areas including the modelling of chemical reactions and pattern formation processes within mathematical biology.

- Optimal control problems in fluid dynamics: One of the major classes of PDE-constrained optimization formulations arises in the form of flow control problems. I have investigated numerical methods for solving problems involving (time-independent and time-dependent) Stokes and Navier-Stokes equations, with effective preconditioning strategies requiring the precise features of the fluid flow to be taken into account.

- Interior point methods: I have also investigated interior point methods for solving quadratic and nonlinear programming problems, including such problems where the constraints are given by systems of PDEs.

- Computation of special functions: Another research area that I am interested in is the development of methods for computing special functions within mathematical physics, in particular hypergeometric functions. It is important to determine effective strategies for carrying out these computations that avoid numerical issues such as roundoff error, cancellation and overflow - the 'best' technique frequently varies depending on the parameter regime being examined.

Research Groups

Recent Conference and Workshop Involvement

Sep 2017: 18th French-German-Italian Conference on Optimization, Paderborn, Germany

Aug 2017: LMS-EPSRC Durham Symposium on Model Order Reduction, Durham

Jul 2017: 14th International Symposium on Orthogonal Polynomials, Special Functions and Applications, Canterbury (member of local organising committee)

Jun 2017: 27th Biennial Conference on Numerical Analysis, Glasgow

Jun 2017: Householder Symposium on Numerical Linear Algebra XX, Blacksburg, USA (plenary speaker)

Apr 2017: Warwick EPSRC Symposium on Numerical Analysis for PDEs, University of Warwick

Feb 2017: 24th International Conference on Domain Decomposition Methods, Longyearbyen, Norway

Biographical Statement

Having received a DPhil in Numerical Analysis from the University of Oxford, I moved to the University of Edinburgh in 2013 to take up a Whittaker Research Fellowship at the School of Mathematics. From 2015-2017 I was a Lecturer in Mathematics at the University of Kent, and in 2015 I also received an EPSRC Fellowship. I was awarded an IMA Leslie Fox (2nd) Prize in Numerical Analysis in 2015, and a University of Kent Faculty of Sciences Research Award in 2016. My main research interests arise from the modelling and numerics of optimal control processes, and in particular their application to practical and industrial problems. I have also worked on the numerical solution of PDEs from fluid dynamics and chemical processes, as well as on other areas of computational optimization, and I take a keen interest in writing computer software for real-world mathematical problems.​

Professional Activities

EPSRC Fellow

Fellow of the Higher Education Academy

Member of the EPSRC Peer Review College

Member of the EPSRC Early Career Forum

Member of the GAMM Activity Groups on Applied and Numerical Linear Algebra & Optimization with PDEs

Member of Numerical Algorithms Group (NAG), Oxford


Postgraduate Certificate in Higher Education University of Kent (2016)

DPhil in Numerical Analysis University of Oxford (2013)

MSc in Mathematical Modelling and Scientific Computing University of Oxford (2009)

BA in Mathematics University of Oxford (2008)