Introduction Scientific Computing (WISB 356), 2020/2021, Utrecht University

Location and time

Monday (13.15-17 hour), Tuesday (13.15-15 hour) and Thursday (9-10.45 hour) from February 8, 2021 until April 8, 2021 online in Microsoft Teams. No class in week from 8-12 March.


Module 1: Rob Bisseling (Mathematical Institute UU)
Module 2: Alessandro Sbrizzi (University Medical Center Utrecht)
Teaching assistant: Lotte Muller (Mathematical Institute UU)

Course material

Module 1 (4 weeks): begin intro Matlab, then Chapter 5 (linear systems) and 7 (PageRank) from the online book by Cleve Moler (2011), Experiments with Matlab. We will use other materials as well, in particular for the topic of Covid-19 simulation on networks.

Module 2 (4 weeks): Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI). Online material will become available through Blackboard.


We use Matlab, see Free software at the UU for students. In Module 2 we will use the Image Processing Toolbox, which can be downloaded with the Matlab package. Tick a box when installing.


All information on module 1 can be found on the present page. All information on module 2 can be found through the Blackboard pages of this course.


Based on two reports, one per module. Both reports have equal weight and count for 50% of the final grade of the course. Every report needs to obtain a grade of at least 5, and the rounded final grade must be at least 6. The reports can be written in either Dutch or English. The reports can be written together with (at most) one fellow student. Every student is individually accountable for the whole report. Reports can be discussed individually afterwards. This discussion may influence the final grade.


7,5 ECTS


The aim of this course is to provide a first orientation towards the area of scientific computing by some case studies from various application areas. Topics treated are widely used techniques from numerical linear algebra such as the solution of linear systems and eigenvalue problems, both dense and sparse, within the context of an application such as computing the Google PageRank of a webpage or the processing of images obtained by an MRI scanner. We will also study algorithms of a more combinatorial nature, such as the partitioning of sparse matrices. We will explore the connection between sparse matrices and networks, and will perform simulations of various vaccination strategies on the spread of Covid-19 on a population network. Both theoretical aspects and practical, software-related aspects will be treated. Every week there will be online lectures alternating with exercise sessions, and question and answer sessions, either individual or in groups. This course presents a taste of the master track Applied Mathematics, Complex Systems, and Scientific Computing and it represents an overview of scientific computing.


English, but student may write their reports in English or Dutch.


Calculus and Linear Algebra (WISB107, WISB108, WISB137), The course Numerical Mathematics WISB251 is desired, but not strictly necessary. When in doubt, or for majors other than in Mathematics or Physics, please contact one of the teachers. It is not necessary to know Matlab already, as we will start with a gentle introduction to Matlab. Warning: be aware that the level of difficulty of the course will gradually increase during the period of the course, both conceptually and practically, so that near the end (in the second module) we expect the maximum effort from the student.


We roughly follow the schedule below. Ch5 means Chapter 5 from the book by Cleve Moler, "Experiments with Matlab", 2011. The chapter and exercise numbering is according to the PDF version of the book. The exercises listed are related to the lecture and they are are meant for the exercises sessions. The exercise sessions are: Monday 14.15-15.00 hour (led by Rob), Monday 16.15-17.00 (Rob), Tuesday 13.15-15.00 (Lotte), Thursday 10.00-10.45 (Rob+Lotte). The exercises need not be handed in. They are selected to get you started, and can be discussed with the teachers. Don't worry if they are too much; you do not need to finish them all. Small changes in the schedule and content may still occur depending on our progress.

Module 1

Last update of this page by Rob Bisseling: March 1, 2021.