Mathematics and Biology

Having worked in two traditionally distinct fields, both separately and combining the methods of both, I have more than a few thoughts on what separates these disciplines and how this can be quite detrimental.

As I see it there are two core differences between a mathematical world-view and a biological one: the first is in how knowledge is acquired; and the other is the difference between a dynamical world-view and a static one. What may surprise you is which one is static and which one is dynamic!

Knowledge acquisition

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Shame

A number of stellar academics made minor headlines, in 2016-17, by publishing CVs of their failures. This had an initial, and intended, positive effect. Many early-stage researchers marvelled at the bravery of Stanford-level professors being willing to open-up about the unsuccessful pathways which they had followed earlier in their careers. Some of those writing their admissions even argued that their current CV would not get them a real job, outside of academia.

A natural, if gentle, backlash set-in pretty quickly. It’s all very well for successful associate or tenure-track professors to open-up and reveal their inner worries. But they are doing this from a position of incredible privilege. Would it really break down any barriers to reveal that the British royal family have worries about health and relationships and money too? Of course not! It softens their public image in some eyes; it humanises them. But it does not change the fact that they are revealing that even people with privilege have mundane worries too. If you have risen to tenure-track at a top American university you have joined the privileged classes, even if you did not start out that way. Your contribution to society may be in opening up new access to the elites, but it is not in admitting that the elites also fail sometimes.

I was very tempted at the time, to join the rush, and post my own CV of failure. I wanted  Continue reading “Shame”

Simmunology is….

my first real startup. That is, the first time that I’ve actually incorporated a company. Simmunology Limited exists since last week.

The path to incorporation has been an interesting and sometimes terrifying ride. (Aside: understatement will typically be an element of my style, this should be borne in mind when reading my prose.)  I finished up a postdoc in computational neuroscience at TU Berlin last December (2017). Since then I have been trying to establish a place for myself in the world in which I get to use my, not inconsiderable, experience to choose my own directions.

I left academia with a strong feeling that not-all is right in the academic world. In fact it is very, very wrong. But more importantly, I don’t think that the kind of cross-disciplinary talents which I bring to the table will ever be fully utilised in that sector, at least not as it exists today.

I came up with two pet projects which I thought I could work on to bring an impact to the world. The first,  Continue reading “Simmunology is….”