This module investigates how solutions to systems of ODEs (in particular) change as parameters are smoothly varied resulting in smooth changes to steady states (bifurcations), sudden changes (catastrophes) and how inherent symmetry in the system can also be exploited. The module will be application driven with suitable reference to the historical significance of the material in relation to the Mathematics Institute (chiefly through the work of Christopher Zeeman and later Ian Stewart). It will be most suitable for third year BSc. students with an interest in modelling and applications of mathematics to the real world relying only on core modules from previous years as prerequisites and concentrating more on the application of theories rather than rigorous proof.

Indicative content (precise details and order still being finalised):

1. Typical one-parameter bifurcations: transcritical, saddle-node, pitchfork bifurcations, Bogdanov-Takens, Hopf bifurcations leading to periodic solutions. Structural stability.

2. Motivating examples from catastrophe and equivariant bifurcation theories, for example Zeeman Catastrophe Machine, ship dynamics, deformations of an elastic cube, D_4-invariant functional.

3. Germs, equivalence of germs, unfoldings. The cusp catastrophe, examples including Spruce-Budworm, speciation, stock market, caustics. Thom’s 7 Elementary Catastrophes (largely through exposition rather than proof). Some discussion on the historical controversies.

4. Steady-State Bifurcations in symmetric systems, equivariance, Equivariant Branching Lemma, linear stability and applications including coupled cell networks and speciation.

5. Time Periocicity and Spatio-Temporal Symmetry: Animal gaits, characterization of possible spatio-temporal symmetries, rings of cells, coupled cell networks, H/K Theorem, Equivariant Hopf Theorem.

Further topics from (if time and interest):

Euclidean Equivariant systems (example of liquid crystals), bifurcation from group orbits (Taylor Couette), heteroclinic cycles, symmetric chaos, Reaction-Diffusion equations, networks of cells (groupoid formalism).