Letter of reference (from 1998)

Warwick Letterhead


G. Keith Still

The purpose of this letter is to certify the scientific credentials of Mr. Still, and the originality and utility (potential and actual) of his new mathematical techniques for data analysis. Some years ago Mr Still came to see me with some of his early ideas about the dynamics of crowd movement. Over the next few months he made rapid progress in turning these ideas into a software package for the simulation and analysis of crowd dynamics, known as Legion. It quickly became apparent that he had hit upon an important scientific tool for understanding many aspects of crowd dynamics. It also became clear that Legion was worthy of a PhD, and Mr Still was registered at this university as a mature student on our PhD programme in Interdisciplinary Mathematics. He has successfully completed his PhD thesis on crowd dynamics, under my supervision in 2000.

This work was undertaken within the MIRA@W programme (Mathematical Interdisciplinary Research at Warwick) of the Mathematics Institute of the University of Warwick. Warwick is one of the UK's leading universities and its mathematics department is among the top five in the country.

At the core oflies an understanding of complex dynamical systems that is extremely general, with many potential applications. In particular, some of Mr Still's most recent work - not part of the PhD but related to it - has opened up the serious possibility of detecting various kinds of heart disease by computer analysis of ECG data.

In early trials, Mr Still took care to ensure that his analysis was not biased by knowledge of the answer, and he set up a series of blind tests. He notified me in advance of the protocols for these tests, so that I can confirm that his methodology was unbiased.

The results to date are distinctly promising. The main point I wish to make here is that they refer to genuine blind trials. The technique has not been 'massaged' in any way to take advantage of special knowledge of the data sets used.

Mr Still is what I term an 'intuitive mathematician'. He is a constant source of original ideas, and a number of these have already formed the basis of commercial products and activities. He is one of the most creative and original thinkers that I know. He has a pleasant, friendly disposition, and works well with other creative scientists; he adds drive and determination, as well as considerable intellectual power, to any group of which he is a part.

For a long time he has wanted to develop some ideas that can be used to help people, rather than just as a source of income. He is very keen to develop his methods for analysing ECG data into a clinical technique, for that reason. He is not averse to commercial involvement either, but in this case the real driving force is the wish to help improve medical diagnoses, and thereby help patients. In a similar way, his main drive for the creation of Legion was the wish to improve crowd safety.

I believe that if he is made part of a small team, combining the appropriate expertise, then that team will be able to develop his methods into a useful clinical technique. A lot of development work and rigorous testing will be needed, for obvious reasons, but the essential basis is already in place. I know that Mr Still is capable of this kind of development work, because I have witnessed him doing it. For example, in my opinion Legion is by far the best available method for obtaining both quantitative and qualitative results on crowd flow that correspond accurately to real crowds. The scientific ideas involved have been tested thoroughly, and the method works very effectively. The core ideas are original to Mr. Still and cannot be found in the published literature. Legion constitutes a major breakthrough in crowd modelling, with important applications to the design of new buildings or complexes with public access, the analysis of existing buildings, and other central issues of modem crowd management.

I am convinced that with the right support, his methods for ECG data analysis could become equally successful. Moreover, his presence in a research environment would have beneficial spin-off in other directions too, since he has a happy knack of seeing what the main features of other people's problems are. His intuition for subtle patterns of behaviour in complex data is impressive, the best I've ever seen.

Ian's Signature

Mathematics Institute, University of Warwick, Coventry CV4 7AL, United Kingdom.

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