5 Questions with Lev Idels

5 Questions with Lev Idels

VIU Math Professor Dr. Lev V. Idels

July 26, 2019 - 12:00pm

Through his work as an Associate Editor for Elsevier, one of the world’s major providers of scientific, technical and medical information, Vancouver Island University (VIU) Math professor Dr. Lev V. Idels is sharing his expertise on an international platform. 

Idels was born in Ukraine and received a PhD in Applied Mathematics from the Moscow Mathematical Institute. After teaching at the Siberian University for several years, he immigrated to Canada in 1995. He taught at three other BC universities before coming to VIU as a math instructor in 2001. 

Idels arranged a lot of firsts for VIU, including organizing the International Conference on Math Biology in 2005 and he designed and taught five new upper-level math courses. 

Idels has signed a new contract with Elsevier, an international publishing company that owns about 3,000 academic journals. Its articles account for about 18 per cent of the world’s research output. He has been an Associate Editor for the Journal of Applied Mathematical Modelling since 2012. The journal focuses on research related to the mathematical modeling of engineering and environmental processes, manufacturing and industrial systems.    

“I really enjoy being an editor,” says Idels. “It gives me a chance to see the most recent trends in math and its multiple applications and challenge top-notch experts in the broad field of math applications.”   

His own research develops connections between abstract mathematics and life sciences with applications for many industries, including fisheries, bioinformatics and cancer dynamics (see the first question to learn more). He has published more than 100 papers, with more than 400 citations over the last five years in respected math journals and he is a recipient of a VIU Distinguished Researcher Award in 2018. 

Tell us more about your research.

Can abstract algebras, multi-variable analysis and differential equations save the planet? Yes. I am building a solid bridge between abstract models and real-life problems. Math models are used to show the development of diseases and to test treatment protocols. For example, is it better to apply a treatment once per day in one dose, or twice per day in minimal doses? Math modelling can answer open questions, such as: Is one large marine protected area better than many small ones and how does a fishing quota in an open area affect a closed area, or how long should a protected area be closed? 

What does it mean to be an Associate Editor for Elsevier?

It means 4,000 scientists learn about VIU every year.

Scientists around the world want to share their research and their ideas. Papers submitted for publishing at Elsevier go through a very thorough evaluation process. The journal editorial board consists of five Associate Editors with a broad area of expertise and 35 Subject Editors. Every submission undergoes an assessment by a minimum of eight reviewers. The Associate Editor makes the final decision if it gets published or not. I oversee the review process for about 500 papers annually in my area of expertise. For me it’s like being a referee, deciding which new venues of mathematics will be the most important for future generations, not for a few years. That’s the trickiest part, since, sometimes you could reject a real discovery or accept triviality. 

What trait do you most admire about yourself?

I’m adventurous. I’ve created a lot of exciting possibilities for myself, and I’m always open to new ones. One of my favourite quotes is from author E.A. Bucchianeri: “Well, if it can be thought, it can be done, a problem can be overcome.”  

If you could do something different what other profession would you do? 

I would be someone like Elon Musk, founder, CEO and lead designer of SpaceX. I would be a designer of new technologies that influence the course of history. 

One of VIU’s values is global citizenship. What does this mean to you?

Connection to everyone in the world, where we share experience and provide guidance. We have a responsibility to help people make our planet flourish for many centuries ahead. 


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