PIMS Overview


The Pacific Institute for the Mathematical Sciences (PIMS) was founded in 1996 by a consortium of five universities in Alberta and British Columbia (the University of Alberta, the University of Calgary, the University of British Columbia, Simon Fraser University and the University of Victoria). Later they were joined by the University of Washington in the United States and more recently by the Universities of Regina, Saskatchewan and finally Lethbridge.

The mandate of PIMS is to:

  • promote research in and applications of the mathematical sciences of the highest international caliber
  • facilitate the training of highly-qualified personnel at the graduate and postdoctoral level
  • enrich public awareness of mathematics through outreach
  • enhance the mathematical training of teachers and students in K-12
  • create mathematical partnerships with similar organizations in other countries, with a particular focus on Latin America and the Pacific Rim.


Unique Structure of PIMS

PIMS is unique in several ways; most fundamentally because of its distributed structure. Most institutes organize events at a central location where international scientists are brought in residence; PIMS, on the other hand, has a site at each of nine major universities in Alberta, British Columbia, Saskatchewan and Washington State. PIMS also has affiliate sites at Portland State University and the University of Northern British Columbia. PIMS events are organized at each of these sites, and PIMS researchers are distributed throughout the network.

This distributed structure has been extremely successful, and has revitalized the mathematics departments in Western Canada. The strong presence of PIMS at the university level gives it access to a vast reservoir of scientists of all disciplines. Indeed, over the years PIMS has been able to break down disciplinary barriers and today the PIMS community extends beyond mathematics and statistics departments, and has come to include scientists in areas such as physics, biology, engineering, informatics, operations research and economics.

PIMS is institutionally binational (the University of Washington is a full member) and it is the only institute of this kind in mathematics. This unique international structure projects PIMS beyond the boundaries of Canada, notably towards the Pacific Rim, to allow Canada to benefit from international scientific and economic developments.


Scientific Activities

    PIMS has built an international reputation for excellence and transformed the conditions of mathematical research in Canada. The following is a partial list of current scientific activities:
  • The innovative PIMS Collaborative Research Groups and their training and focused activities over a multi-year period aim to develop permanent research and training networks, establishing lasting interdisciplinary links between geographically separate groups of researchers at member universities. PIMS has developed 26 CRGs since its inception, in areas ranging across all the mathematical sciences. This has served as a catalyst for producing mathematical research of the highest quality in Western Canada and attracting outstanding faculty to PIMS universities.
  • Every year PIMS sponsors numerous postdoctoral fellows, attracting outstanding young scientists who contribute to PIMS' research programs and some of whom later become faculty members at leading Canadian and international universities. They are distributed throughout PIMS sites on a competitive basis.
  • In 2007 PIMS launched the International Graduate Training Centre in Mathematical Biology. This is a graduate training program focused on strategic topics of great current interest (such as the mathematical modelling of ecosystems, disease spread and intracellular dynamics). Special fellowships are awarded to students and there are training events and research summits connected to the program. Students at PIMS universities obtain common course credits through the Western Deans' Protocol.
  • PIMS organizes international summer schools to train the new generation of mathematical scientists in emerging areas of mathematics and its applications such as seismic imaging, the mathematics of sustainability, string theory, atmospheric modelling and climate change, quantum information and cryptography, environmetrics, probability and mathematical finance.
  • PIMS has a lively program in industrial mathematics, and runs Mathematical Modeling in Industry Workshops as well as Industrial Problem Solving Workshops for students, faculty and industry. As well, industrial workshops, short courses, mini-courses, summer schools and seminar series are organized by PIMS researchers, with topics of interest to both industry and academia, which serve to disseminate newly developed mathematical tools that can be of use in industry. For instance, with the sponsorship of Shell Canada Limited, PIMS presents a series of lunch hour lectures at Calgary Place Tower 1. These lectures, given by experts from the PIMS universities, focus on mathematical techniques and applications relevant to the oil and gas industry and demonstrate the utility and beauty of applied mathematics.


National and International Collaborations

PIMS has taken a leadership role in the national and international mathematical community. Together with the two other mathematical institutes in Canada, it created major national programs such as Mprime (formerly known as MITACS -- Mathematics of Information Technology and Complex Systems) and AARMS (Atlantic Association of Research in the Mathematical Sciences). Together with the Mathematical Sciences Research Institute (MSRI) in Berkeley, it created the Banff International Research Station (BIRS), which is now the premier mathematical research station in North America. PIMS has been working together with the Canadian Statistical Sciences Institute to promote progress in statistics.  Our partnership with the Institute for Mathematics and Applications (USA) allows us to provide new opportunities in industrial mathematics for students via the annual Mathematical Modelling in Industry Workshops. PIMS has built close partnerships with mathematical institutes in Mexico and Chile, and has been instrumental in creating the Pacific Rim Mathematical Association (PRIMA), a network of mathematical institutes in Canada, the United States, Mexico, Chile, New Zealand, Australia, Singapore, China, Korea, and Japan, bound by a cooperative agreement. It is also affiliated with CNRS, the French national agency for scientific research, as an Unité Mixte Internationale, thus allowing PIMS to join the scientific networks of the European Community.


Administrative Structure and Funding for PIMS

The central office and the Directors of PIMS are at UBC, and at each of the other eight universities there is a PIMS site office and a site director. The role of the site directors is to look for local opportunities and synergies, while the PIMS site offices provide administrative assistance for organizing PIMS events locally. The administration of PIMS is overseen by a Board of Directors, with membership consisting of the V.P. Research from each of the member universities, as well as distinguished scientists and representatives from from the business, industry and resource sectors and professional societies. Scientific events are adjudicated by an independent Scientific Review Panel composed of internationally renowned mathematical scientists.

PIMS receives funding from NSERC, the member universities and the provincial governments of Alberta, British Columbia and Saskatchewan. Its international events are cosponsored by funding agencies such as the US National Science Foundation and by international partner institutions. The PIMS annual budget is approximately $3.4 million.


PIMS Educational and Outreach Activities

PIMS has a mandate to vigorously promote mathematics in Canada, and takes upon itself the mission to help provide the elements for success that are necessary for current and future generations of teachers, scientists and engineers. In addition, the educational programs at PIMS advocate strongly for, and find models and activities to facilitate, the participation of people of all backgrounds in the mathematical endeavour. PIMS is actively involved in promoting mathematical outreach events in schools throughout Western Canada. They involve students, teachers and parents and seek to convey the excitement of discovery that underlies mathematics and its applications. PIMS has developed a partnership with First Nations schools in British Columbia which is supported by the BC government as well as private donors. The activities under this program include: summer camps for students, teacher training sessions and a coordinated mentorship program where undergraduate students from universities work with local teachers and students to provide support in mathematics. Teacher training sessions have been held in Kamloops, Lytton, Barriere and Port Alberni and currently there are nine partnering schools in British Columbia. PIMS also runs math fairs in Calgary, and Math on the Move brings educational activities to schools in Saskatchewan. On the college level, the PIMS Educational Associates program strives to improve the educational experience for teachers, students, and the community by facilitating the sharing of ideas and resources among its members. The resulting enhanced collaboration will stimulate improvements in best practices in teaching, outreach efforts and professional development. To date PIMS has 7 Educational Associates in British Columbia and 4 in ALberta.

For additional information please contact PIMS by clicking here.