
Section de Mathématiques (SMA) 

John H. Maddocks (circa 1987)
Chaire d'Analyse Appliquée
Note: timestudy of rate of appearance of distinguished silver hair can be found on the group photos page .The PDF file jhm publications contains citation information, along with links to the text of abstracts and downloadable files where available, of my writings. The page
group publications
gives access to publications of all group members.
My official EPFL biography and a CV (in PDF).
Note: generally we are too busy *doing* research to revise the web pages *describing* the research so the details in the descriptive parts of these pages are woefully out of date. However the list of group publications is kept pretty much current, and the general lines of group research remain largely the same as described here.
My general research interests concern nonlinear mechanics and mathematics, with emphases on i) parameter continuation, bifurcation and stability exchange results, ii) variational principles, particularly constrained variational principles, and iii) Hamiltonian mechanics. A significant portion of my work concerns the treatment of interdisciplinary problems, collaborations involving modelling of experimental data, and computations involving the interactive use of graphics and visualization techniques.
For the last several years (and probably for the foreseeable future) the groups research efforts have been almost exclusively directed toward applying continuum mechanics models to describe the supercoiling of large macromolecules, particularly DNA. We aim to apply mathematically rigorous approaches and efficient computational algorithms in the development and application of models with the objective of understanding the basic physical properties of DNA as a function of its base sequence. These properties are generally believed to be key to the biological function of DNA, but the mechanisms are not well understood.
Less obviously we also pursue basic mathematical questions that
arise during our more applied investigations. The simple geometrical
idea of global
radius of curvature arose in exactly this way.
The rule of the last inch
Now listen to the rule of the last inch. The realm of the last inch.
The job is almost finished, the goal almost attained, everything
possible seems to have been achieved, every difficulty overcome
 and yet the quality is just not there. The work needs more
finish, perhaps further research. In that moment of weariness
and selfsatisfaction, the temptation is greatest to give up,
not to strive for the peak of quality. That's the realm of the
last inch  here the work is very, very complex but it's also
particularly valuable because it's done with the most perfect
means. The rule of the last inch is simply this  not to leave
it undone. And not to put it off  because otherwise your mind
loses touch with that realm. And not to mind how much time you
spend on it, because the aim is not to finish the job quickly,
but to reach perfection.
One of several quotations assembled by the then Director, Professor R.B. Kellogg, and placed on the Web pages of the Applied Mathematics PhD Program at the University of Maryland More Quotes