The School celebrates gold and bronze wins at SET for Britain 2016

Dr Philip Pearce, a Research Fellow in the School of Mathematics, has won first prize at the ‘SET for Britain’ competition in the House of Commons on 7th March 2016.

Philip Pearce, who is originally from Gnosall, Staffordshire and is an EPSRC Doctoral Prize Fellow, picked up the gold prize for Mathematical Sciences (and a £3000 prize) after his research on the use of mathematics to build a virtual placenta won against hundreds of other scientists’ research in the national competition. His poster is entitled 'Relating structure to function in the placenta via mathematical modelling'. The placenta is arguably the most important human organ, performing functions later taken up by the kidneys, lungs, liver, gut and endocrine glands.

In his poster, Philip investigates oxygen transfer in small capillaries in the placenta.  A combination of techniques is used, including simulations of blood flow and oxygen transfer on real geometries obtained from 3D images and mathematical modelling. Philip’s research aims to eventually build a working virtual placenta, which could be used for the early identification and prevention of diseases during pregnancy. He indicates that this is just one of the many ways in which mathematics can be useful in medical applications.

SET for Britain is a poster competition which aims to encourage, support and promote Britain's early-stage and early-career research scientists, engineers, technologists and mathematicians, who are an essential part of continuing development of research and development in the UK. The awards are given on the basis of the very best research work, together with the ability of the researcher to communicate their work to a lay audience.

“I think it's really important that the benefits of mathematical research are communicated to the general public,” said Dr Pearce. “SET for Britain is an excellent opportunity for Members of Parliament to learn about some of the cutting-edge mathematics being done in the UK.”

Additionally, Weijian Zhang, a PhD student in the School of Mathematics studying under Professor Nick Higham, picked up the Bronze Award.  His poster entitled 'Time-Dependent Network Modelling for Mining Scientific Literature'. The poster showcased Weijian's current research on time-dependent networks and introduces a new model for mining scientific literature. In contract to the ranking algorithms used in traditional web information retrieval, his model can provide researchers with the most relevant papers in a structured way.

Stephen Metcalfe MP, Chairman of the Parliamentary and Scientific Committee, said: “This annual competition is an important date in the parliamentary calendar, because it gives MPs an opportunity to speak to a wide range of the country’s best young researchers.  These early career engineers, mathematicians and scientists are the architects of our future, and SET for Britain is politicians’ best opportunity to meet them and understand their work”.

Sir Adrian Smith, Chair of the Council for the Mathematical Sciences (CMS), said: “The CMS is delighted, once again, to showcase the importance of the mathematical sciences to a wider audience. It is paramount to encourage early-career research scientists, engineers, technologists and mathematicians, and the SET for Britain event is a very effective way of doing this.”

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