Co-leadership of COVID-19 “Biology-Mathematics speed dating” initiative

Activity: OtherAppointment


When the first COVID-19 lock-down occurred in March 2020, I became aware through my role as Research Focus Lead for Bioinformatics and Mathematical Biology that with many Biology labs were closed completely several PDRAs and PhD students were concerned at having “nothing to do”. This was a problem, but also an opportunity to promote interdisciplinary working and make new research links. I recruited colleagues John Davey (Biology Technology Facility) and Jess Hargreaves (Mathematics), and together we elicited offers of technical support (modelling, coding, data science, statistics) from 20+ experts from Mathematics. We then elicited requests from Biology colleagues in need of this expertise. Our group (myself, Davey, Hargreaves) met weekly to discuss requests, and organised and facilitated meetings between relevant staff. Around 10 requests were handled in this way.
Evaluating the success of this initiative would be premature, and in reality many links were already in existence and just needed to be strengthened or sharpened. Nevertheless, the provision of widespread collegiate support at a time of upheaval is unlikely to be harmful. Personally the initiative led to new collaboration with the Bryant and Ungar research groups, resulting in a CASE studentship application and a planned BBSRC grant application (summer 2021), both with external industrial partner Lonza.
Period2020 → …