I went to school at George Spencer Academy in Nottingham. I stayed there for my A-levels and then went to the University of Leeds to do my degree in Maths and Biology. After this I came back to Nottingham to do a Masters degree in Mathematical Medicine and Biology at the University of Nottingham. I am currently in the 3rd year of a PhD also at the University of Nottingham where I use maths to learn about asthma!
I have 10 GCSE's grade A*- A, an AS grade B in Geography, A levels in Maths (A), Further Maths (A) and Biology (B), a first class degree in Maths and Biology and a Masters degree in Mathematical Medicine and Biology (distinction).
The jobs that I have had include...a paper round once a month (age 14-16), being a cashier at Halfords part time during year 11 and sixth form (age 17-19), being a waitress at a Flaming grill pub during university holidays (age 19-21), being a university student ambassador (age 20-21), working at Tesco while I was doing my Masters degree (age 22-23), doing my PhD (23-now!) and being a synchronised swimming coach and social media officer at the University while doing my PhD (also now!)
PhD student in Maths
University of Nottingham
I am a tiny mathematician who wants to make a lot of noise about how cool maths actually is (trust me!). Family and friends are very important to me, I love to perform in swimming pools (read below if you are curious about this) and weirdly enough I have a very real allergy to exercise!
My name is Sarah, I am 26 (even though I got mistaken for a child on the bus the other day) and I live in Nottingham with my boyfriend James and dog Alfie. I coach a synchronised swimming team and occasionally jump back in the pool to do a bit myself since this has been my passion since I was 10. The thing I love most about this is making up the routines – I have made routines to Disney songs, Sia, Kanye and even the theme from Fresh Prince. 3 years ago I developed a very unusual and annoying allergy to wheat with exercise (unfortunately this means I had to stop eating proper pizza, cake, pasta, KFC (!) etc rather than having an excuse not to go to the gym). I love playing with my 3 God children and I am really obsessed with my dog (just look how cute he is!). I really enjoy travelling the world and want to visit as many countries as I can. My guilty pleasure is binge watching Netflix series in my PJ’s.
How I Use Maths In My Job:
I use maths in nearly every part of my work. This could be in doing statistical analysis of some data I obtained in the lab, using geometry to model the changes in cell shapes, using equations to calculate the change in forces, using algebra to represent quantities that are unknown and more advanced techniques such as modelling using differential equations. While some of these things are calculated by hand a lot of this is done using coding software like Matlab.
I use maths to learn about what happens inside the airways of someone that has asthma.
You have probably heard of asthma. It is a lung (and airway) disease that affects lots of people in the UK! For most, when they have an asthma attack they struggle to catch their breath and so use an inhaler to help get their breathing back to normal. For some people however, the inhalers don’t help them and they could become very ill. My work uses maths and experiments with Human cells to learn about what is happening in these airways. Using maths means that there is less use of animals in this research! We want to find out how the airways of these people are different and use this information to find a new way to help them when inhalers don’t work!
My Typical Day
I wake up (after several alarms normally), grab a cup of tea and bowl of cereal and have these in the office while I catch up on my emails. I then get on with my coding - occasionally doing little test calculations by hand. If I am waiting for some code to finish running I continue writing up my thesis. I also have the job of running the social media for the school of mathematical sciences at the university of Nottingham so I then catch up with any current tasks for that for example creating newsletters or updating our twitter account.
When I used to work in the lab, my typical day involved looking after my cells! These are human airway muscle cells, that need to be given things like nutrients to keep them alive. I then used these cells in experiments where usually I would add different coloured markers to track changes under the microscope.
These experiments gave me lots of data so that now I mostly do all my work on the computer! I write long pieces of code that allows “pretend” cells to copy the behaviour that we saw in the experiments. We can then use these models to help us find out what might happen in the future or ways of stopping something happening!
I also do regular visits to schools (before COVID) to share this exciting work and work that is being done by others that also use maths to learn about things in medicine or biology (and even other subjects like sports, music, physics, engineering, architecture…)
Other than experiments, coding and school visits, my typical day might involve solving calculations, having meetings to discuss the next bit of work or listening to research that is being done by others.
What I'd do with the prize money
I would use the money to either take my maths workshops to more schools around the country or to develop it for online/remote learning.
I already visit schools regularly however these are only local and, with the great feedback students give me, I would love to be able to visit schools anywhere in the UK. This money would help lots with the cost of this travel and would allow more students to see how maths is actually used in real life. Should COVID restrictions continue I would instead use the money to develop my workshops for online/remote learning.
How would you describe yourself in 3 words?
Caring, dedicated and driven
What or who inspired you to follow your career?
The lack of girls in the field of mathematics
What's your favourite use for maths in everyday life?
What did you think about Maths when you were in school?
I always loved it
What did you want to be after you left school?
A teacher in a special educational needs school
Were you ever in trouble at school?
Not very often but I did get sent out of the classroom once for talking (and I cried). I was also occasionally late to school so had to stay behind after school to make up for this a few times.
If you weren't doing this job, what would you choose instead?
Either teaching or being a professional synchronised swimming routine choreographer
Who is your favourite singer or band?
Lewis Capaldi or Sia
What's your favourite food?
Chocolate covered strawberries
What is the most fun thing you've done?
Flying across South Americas highest zip line was pretty epic
If you had 3 wishes for yourself what would they be? - be honest!
1) To have my own successful company that travels around schools and clubs to answer the question: What's the point of maths? 2) To improve on my OCD 3) To buy a nice house with my boyfriend james.
Tell us a joke.
What did the cheese say when she looked in the mirror??? Hallou-mi, looking Gouda