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Mason A. Porter

Applied Mathematician

I earned my undergraduate (B.S.) degree in applied mathematics from California Institute of Technology and my doctoral degree from the Center for Applied Mathematics at Cornell University. I spent time as a postdoctoral scholar at Georgia Institute of Technology and California Institute of Technology (and also briefly at the Mathematical Sciences Research Institute in Berkeley, CA) before joining the Oxford faculty in fall 2007. At Georgia Tech, I was based primarily in a math department (but with a courtesy affiliation in the nonlinear physics group), but I was based in the physics department at Caltech. My research interests are in nonlinear systems, complex systems, and networks—subjects that not only skirt the (very loose!) boundaries between mathematics and physics, but which also allow me to delve into parts of computer science, sociology, neuroscience, and many other areas. I became interested in science through being fascinated by patterns that are both beautiful and intricate (such as those produced by pattern) and by wondering how I could create them.

As an undergrad at Caltech, I gradually became more interested in the models and mechanisms to create such patterns rather than in visuals themselves (although I still like to include nice visualizations in my publications). Being an applied mathematician is an ideal way to undertake such pursuits! My outreach activities include public lectures to a wide variety of audiences, organizing the production of materials (available at and a traveling roadshow to teach network science to teenagers across the UK (and used by others around the world), and helping to develop a booklet of core concepts for what everybody should learn about networks to achieve “network literacy”:  The booklet has thus far been translated from English into 6 languages (and counting).