School of Mathematics and Statistics Maths & Statistics Careers

Drew McCormack

Scientific Programmer
Free University of Amsterdam

After graduating with first class honours in Applied Mathematics, I completed a PhD in Chemical Physics at the University of Melbourne. I accepted a Post-Doctoral position in Leiden, The Netherlands and spent 3 years performing research into the dynamics of chemical reactions at surfaces. This research involved writing software to solve the equations of Quantum Mechanics on supercomputers. The research was loosely related to the field of catalysis, and led to better understanding of how the reaction site on a surface could be influenced by controlling the dynamical state of the reactant molecules. After leaving Leiden, I spent around 6 months writing software in a Space company. The software was for processing the data sent back to Earth by a satellite measuring the thickness of the Earth’s Ozone Layer, and was in collaboration with NASA and ESA.

I currently work as a Scientific Programmer in the Department of Theoretical Chemistry, at the Free University in Amsterdam, The Netherlands. It is not a research position but I am given the opportunity to carry out research in collaboration with, and in support of others. I spend a lot of time developing software for solving scientific problems. This involves programming Quantum Chemistry software sold commercially by our Department through a split-off company. This software, called Amsterdam Density Functional (ADF), makes use of Density Functional Theory (DFT) to solve the electronic structure of molecules from first principles.

I spend most of my day writing scientific software. My mathematical skills are very important for this. Quantum Chemistry makes extensive use of various fields of mathematics, from group theory, to perturbation theory, linear algebra and differential equations. To solve the equations of Quantum Chemistry, I need to be able to understand the mathematics involved, and formulate my own solutions. Writing the software itself also requires that I draw heavily upon my mathematical training. Solving differential equations and the like numerically formed the basis of my Applied Mathematics degree, and still forms the pillar of my work.

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