Carole Proctor, Biological maths researcher

Job Title: Research Associate

Organisation: Newcastle University

Number of years in current position: 5

Qualifications: BEd, BSc (1st class), MSc, DPhil

I have always enjoyed maths, but back in 1972 when I left school I could not find a career in maths which appealed to me, and decided to train as a primary school teacher. After a career break I studied maths and science with the Open University and obtained a BSc. I then had the opportunity to apply my mathematical knowledge to biological problems when I studied for a DPhil at Sussex University. My project involved building spatial models of antipredator vigilance behaviour in flocks of birds. After completing my DPhil, I obtained a post as research associate at Newcastle University, where I have been working for the past five years.

I am currently based at the Centre for Integrated Systems Biology for Ageing and Nutrition and work within a group of mathematical modellers, experimental biologists and computer scientists. The aim of our project is to try and understand the cellular mechanisms of ageing and how these processes are affected by nutrition. My work involves building mathematical models based on experimental hypotheses.

Systems biology is a rapidly growing field and there is currently a demand for trained mathematicians. If you are interested in this field of work, I would advise you to do a degree in maths and if possible to include a course on biology and computer programming. Choose to study the areas of maths which interest you most, but make sure you do at least one course on probability and statistics.