MATH3121 Mathematical Methods and Partial Differential Equations

MATH3121 is a Mathematics Level III course. See the course overview below.

Units of credit: 6

Prerequisites: 12 units of credit in Level 2 Mathematics courses including MATH2011 or MATH2111, and MATH2120 or MATH2130 or MATH2121 or MATH2221, or both MATH2019(DN) and MATH2089, or both MATH2069(DN) and MATH2099.

Note: MATH2520 or MATH2521 (alternatively MATH2620 or MATH2621) is recommended.

Cycle of offering: Yearly in Semester 2

Graduate attributes: The course will enhance your research, inquiry and analytical thinking abilities.

More information: This recent course handout (pdf) contains information about course objectives, assessment, course materials and the syllabus.

The Online Handbook entry contains up-to-date timetabling information.

If you are currently enrolled in MATH3121, you can log into UNSW Moodle for this course.

Course Overview

This course builds on MATH2120 Mathematical Methods for Differential Equations in that it is concerned with ways of solving the (usually partial) differential equations that arise mainly in physical, biological and engineering applications.

Analytical methods have considerable intrinsic interest, but their importance for applications is the driving motive behind this course. The main analytical tools developed in this course can be thought of as generalisations of the Fourier and power series representations of functions studied in MATH2120. This leads to new types of functions and to practical methods for solving differential equations. We will pay special attention to functions defined on infinite domains.

The course begins by characterising different partial differential equations (PDEs), and exploring similarity solutions and the method of characteristics to solve them. The Fourier transform, the natural extension of a Fourier series expansion is then investigated. For functions of time, the Fourier transform corresponds to the "spectrum" of the function or signal in the problem in the frequency domain. Closely related to the Fourier transform is the Laplace transform which is particularly useful for solving the initial value PDEs that arise in many physical applications. Although contour integration is an intrinsic part of using these transforms, only brief references to complex variable methods will be made.

Transforms give a wide insight into the behaviour of a function and suggests other possibilities for the integral representation of solutions of PDEs. By exploiting certain special solutions of a given linear PDE we eventually obtain the idea of a Green's function for the PDE and a corresponding integral form for the solution. The power of Green's functions can be observed in their use as the inverses of differential operators on both infinite and bounded domains.

Frequently it is not possible to evaluate in closed form the Fourier, Laplace or Green's function integrals appearing in the solution of the given PDE. All is not lost as we can still explore the asymptotic behaviour of these integrals at large parameter values and obtain physically useful information on the solution of the underlying problem.