15 October 2019

A special ‘Biology and Medicine’ issue of Mathematics Today published on 12 October is celebrating women’s contribution s to mathematical biology. It features seven articles by female authors and is guest-edited by Dr Ellen Brooks-Pollock from the NIHR Health Protection Research Unit in Evaluation of Interventions at the University of Bristol.

Mathematical biology is a branch of maths and biology that uses mathematical models, theories and analysis to describe and understand biological processes. It is a huge subject that has grown enormously over the last 50 years, due to the increase in rich biological datasets, the increase in computing power and the development of mathematical theory to understand complex biological systems. 

Mathematics can be applied to almost any area of biology: from the study of eye movements, to circadian rhythms, to disease spread, to the structure of viruses, to swarm behaviour, to cancer growth. 

Dr Brooks-Pollock said: “We wanted this special issue not to be about women in maths but to show that many of the creative leaders in mathematical biology are women. All too often, I hear people making excuses for the poor representation of women in maths, that they aren’t able to find female researchers to give talks for a seminar series etc., but it is simply not true. Nowadays, women are comparatively well represented in this field.

“In order to celebrate the contributions of female mathematicians in mathematical biology, we chose all female lead authors, and indeed the vast majority of contributing authors and both guest editors are also women. We hope that this will encourage female students to embark on a career in mathematical biology. We had a long list of excellent female mathematical biologists and it was a challenge to choose just seven feature articles.”

Read the special issue.

Further information

About the NIHR HPRU in Evaluation of Interventions at the University of Bristol

The Health Protection Research Unit (HPRU) in Evaluation of Interventions, based in Population Health Sciences at the University of Bristol, is part of the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) and a partnership between University of Bristol and Public Health England (PHE), in collaboration with University College London, Cambridge Medical Research Council (MRC) Biostatistics Unit and University of the West of England. We are a multidisciplinary team undertaking applied research on the development and evaluation of interventions to protect the public’s health. Our aim is to support PHE in delivering its objectives and functions. Our focus is on the PHE priority area of infection. Follow us on Twitter: @HPRU_EI 

About the NIHR

The National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) is the nation’s largest funder of health and care research. The NIHR:

  • funds, supports and delivers high quality research that benefits the NHS, public health and social care
  • engages and involves patients, carers and the public in order to improve the reach, quality and impact of research
  • attracts, trains and supports the best researchers to tackle the complex health and care challenges of the future
  • invests in world-class infrastructure and a skilled delivery workforce to translate discoveries into improved treatments and services
  • partners with other public funders, charities and industry to maximise the value of research to patients and the economy.

The NIHR was established in 2006 to improve the health and wealth of the nation through research, and is funded by the Department of Health and Social Care. In addition to its national role, the NIHR commissions applied health research to benefit the poorest people in low- and middle-income countries, using Official Development Assistance funding.