Applied mathematics is a powerful, beautiful, subject. It helps us understand our world and can be used to address the greatest scientific and engineering challenges that we face.

To promote applied mathematics to the wider community I have hosted interactive outreach events focused on one of the most fascinating and useful branches of maths – fluid flow.

I appeared on Channel 4’s Food Unwrapped to demonstrated the non-Newtonian, shear-thickening, properties of custard made from mixing a starch-based powder and water (i.e, a suspension of cornflour in water). This fluid behaves like a fluid until it experiences a large force, at which point it instantaneously behaves like a solid.

Preparing for Food Unwrapped: a cement mixer, a paddling pool, and 700kg of custard powder

The University of Greenwich has hosted the IMA Festival of Mathematics on several occasions and you can read about the 2019 event here. Many inspirational mathematicians gave inspirational talks to students of all ages, and I was left in the courtyard with a hosepipe and crate of cornflour. The video below, made during the 2017 Festival, shows how we involved students in an experiment to demonstrate the shear-thickening, or hardening, property of cornflour-based custard. You can read a little more here.


Thanks to Dan Colman Creative Ltd, their team and mine from the University of Greenwich’s Department of Mathematical Sciences were able to run very hectic and very successful “Walking on Custard” workshops at four Astonishing Science Weekends at Butlins (Minehead September 2016, Skegness, June 2016, Bognor Regis  April 2016, and Minehead  September 2015). These were exhausting, messy, but great fun!

Walking on Custard at Butlins Astonishing Science Weekends. With Dr Ana Paula Palacios, Maths, University of Greenwich

As part of National Science and Engineering Week  I gave an interactive lecture on “Fluids, Solids, and the strange things in between“. This was an introduction to the mathematics and importance of rheology (the science of deformation and flow) and ended with a large demonstration of walking on a fluid! This was filmed and can be watched here.

The Big Clean: quite a job after 500 litres of custard

I have given several talks to schools and colleges as part of the Let Maths Take you Further network.

Saturday morning in Butlins Skegness