Published: 14 September 2020

Surrey maths research goes global

Josephine Solowiej-Wedderburn, a PhD student in our Department of Mathematics, presented her research into cellular behaviour to an international audience at the Society for Mathematical Biology’s recent conference…

“The biannual joint meeting of the Society for Mathematical Biology (SMB) and the European Society for Mathematical and Theoretical Biology was due to be held in Heidelberg in Germany this summer,” says Josephine. “It was going to be my first major international conference.”

New challenge

Covid-19 restrictions meant the event was reorganised as an online venture, but Josephine still presented her paper.

“My talk was titled Sensing some resistance: A mathematical model for the contractile mechanosensory mechanism within cells,” continues Josephine. “It was based on a paper my PhD supervisor, Dr Carina Dunlop, and I recently wrote.

“In it, we use a mathematical model to describe how cells use forces to probe their microenvironment and determine their mechanical properties through the resistance experienced.”

Global audience

The virtual conference attracted more than 1700 participants from all over the globe and, confesses Josephine, the lack of a live audience didn’t help quell any nerves when it came to delivering research to the largest SMB gathering to date.

“I thought it might be less daunting delivering a virtual presentation without the watchful glare of the audience,” she adds. “But after a practice run in the Department of Maths, I quickly realised I missed the comfort and reassurance of a physical gathering.

“It was like learning how to give a presentation all over again. I even had to pull out the flashcards!

“I had a few interesting questions during the talk and the overall feedback was very positive. Although it was a pity the conference couldn’t go ahead physically, it’s great the research community is continuing to find new ways to ‘gather’.

“It was a great experience and especially stimulating after all the months of lockdown and working from home! It’s a reassuring reminder the world is still functioning and research continues.”

Success story

Dr Carina Dunlop added: “I was really impressed by how the organisers brought together this meeting so successfully, in such a short time, and by how much effort had been put into trying to facilitate discussions and networking.

“Josephine really demonstrated that it’s possible to engage with the research community at a distance, delivering an excellent talk to an impressively engaged virtual audience.”

Find out more about studying at our Department of Mathematics.

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