Spencer Frei

email    sfrei -at- math.ubc.ca

  office    Auditorium Annex 135


MSc. in Mathematics, University of British Columbia, in progress.

BSc. (Hon.) in Honours Mathematics, McGill University, 2013.

short bio

I finished my undergraduate degree at McGill University, in Montreal, in 2013.  I am currently a masters student at the University of British Columbia.  I am a member of the Probability Group here at UBC, and Ed Perkins is my supervisor.  

long bio

I have always been interested in mathematics and science.  During high school, I worked with Dr. Timothy Mhyre at the Georgetown University Medical Center studying the effects of a drug used to ameliorate symptoms in Alzheimer’s patients.  During my undergraduate years, I spent summers working as a research assistant.  In 2010, I worked with Prof. Maria Kilfoil (now at U Mass. Amherst) at McGill, and helped write some Matlab code to track the movement of cytoskeleton components in cells to analyze the dynamics of cell division.  In 2011, I participated in the NSF REU in Industrial Mathematics at Worcester Polytechnic Institute in Massachusetts.  At WPI, I worked with Kathryn Lockwood, Justin Boyer, Greg Stewart, and Prof. Burt Tilley on the mathematics behind the modeling of residential geothermal heat pump systems.  The work over that summer and the years following resulted in this paper.  In the summer of 2012, with funding from the Institut des sciences mathématiques in Montreal, I studied weak convergence methods for nonlinear partial differential equation with Prof. Gantumur Tsogtgerel and Brian Seguin.  We followed L.C. Evans’ lecture notes on the subject.  The following summer I took a break from mathematics and worked in London at a family friend’s business.  After finishing the first year of courses for my masters at UBC, I participated in the PIMS Summer School in Probability.  I am currently working on problems related to the stochastic SIR epidemic model for my masters thesis.  This is an interacting particle system whose scaling limit is a measure-valued diffusion process.  

More information is available on my CV. 

research interests

I am interested in the applications of probability (discrete or continuous) and analysis, using both theoretical and numerical tools.  An example of this would be applying spectral theory to get the existence of a minimal eigenvalue for Sturm—Liouville operators, and then using the minimal eigenvalue to characterize certain physical properties of a geothermal heat pump system, like the characteristic length required for a desired level of heat loss in a geothermal heat pump system.  (This was what my colleagues and I did in this paper, among other things.)  Another example of this would be modeling the spread of disease or idea in a population as a type of contact process (or other interacting particle system), and then proving theorems about this process and using them for epidemiological or social purposes.  I am currently working towards problems in this vein for my masters thesis; specifically, I am working on the stochastic SIR epidemic model.   My current focus is on proving the extinction of the SIR epidemic on the integer lattice for dimensions 2 and 3 when the infection neighborhood is a box of radius R in the \ell^\infty metric.  

Additionally, I am interested in the usage probabilistic methods in machine learning, which often involve the usage of graphical models. 

other interests

Outside of mathematics, I mainly spend my time listening to and learning about music, especially modern dance music like house, garage, disco, and techno. I occasionally DJ at venues across Vancouver, and I am a big proponent of vinyl and its importance as a medium. (I usually play vinyl-only sets of house, techno, and UK garage.) I also enjoy reading about politics, urbanism, and culture, by writers like Ta-Nehisi Coates, Nikole Hannah-Jones, Andrew Sullivan, Ross Douthat, Stephen Smith, Alon Levy, Glenn Greenwald, and others.  Since moving to British Columbia, I’ve become more interested in hiking and camping.  Some notable hikes I’ve been on include Garibaldi Lake, Anvil Island, and Stawamus Chief.