PhD Student Gives Taster Lecture at St. John’s College

by Annalisa Occhipinti, PhD Student Computer Science on 16 June 2015

Lucy Cavendish PhD student Annalisa Occhipinti recently presented a taster Lecture at St. John’s College, to 24 year 9/10 pupils who will be doing a Brilliant Club STEM programme this summer.

Presentation title: Can a Mathematician help a Doctor?

Annalisa is a second year PhD student at the Computer Laboratory and she is currently working on applications of Mathematics and Computer Science in Cancer research. She is also a PhD tutor with the Brilliant Club an award winning non-profit organisation that exists to widen access to top universities for outstanding pupils from non-selective state schools.

On the 12th of June, she gave a lecture to year 9/10 pupils at St. John’s College, showing some interesting applications of Maths in biology and medicine. The lecture began discussing why we need Maths in everyday life and trying to involve the pupils in finding new applications of Maths in Biology. The main aim of the talk was showing the students that we can even use simple Maths and Computer Science to describe the progression of a disease and find the best treatment.

Annalisa showed one simple example in which a doctor had three different drugs to cure his patient, but he did not know which drug could be the right one. By representing each drug as a straight line on the Cartesian plane and computing the area under the line, it was possible to compute the probability of clinical success of each drug. Hence, by using just lines and area measurements the students were able to find the best drug.

Pupils were also involved in using the software “GeoGebra” to represent the line on a plane and compute the area under the curve in a very easy way.

The lecture concluded asking the students to think again on new possible connections between Maths and Biology and reflecting on which kind of improvement Computer Science and Mathematics can bring to medicine and cancer research.

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