News / 30 September 2018

What are your scientific interests?
I’m a theoretical physicist who focuses on mathematical (and computational) descriptions of all things living (such as membranes, cells, and tissues, for example).

Which unresolved question would you most like to answer?
Traditionally, living systems, with all their complexity and idiosyncrasies, are seen as being somewhat outside the purview of theoretical physics. But I want to know if this is really true. How far can theories be pushed to truly describe the living, and can they work hand-in-glove with experiment, like today’s modern physics? Perhaps most importantly, how can such theories be leveraged to deliver new scientific insight?

Name one tool you can’t do without.
My laptop, plain and simple. I need it for tasks that range from image processing and data analysis to the coding of simulations or numerics. I even use a computer to check my analytical work and perform algebraic tasks that would otherwise be long and tedious (and therefore likely to generate a mistake!).

What will you be looking for as you build your group?
I always think it needs to be like a good sports team; on the one hand motivated and cohesive, with everyone working for each other, but on the other hand, diverse enough that everyone brings something different to the team.

What are your goals for your group?
Fundamentally, I want to use theory (and computation) to drive better science. That is: better understanding of data; better, more quantitative, predictions; and better conceptualisation and experimental design.

What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?
Someone once said to me: “Try not to solve other people’s problems”. Of course, at first sight, this seems a bit selfish, but in the context of science it actually makes a lot of sense. Science is full of problems, big and small, and just because you think you know how to solve something doesn’t mean it’s the right use of your time; better to focus on the problems that you think are important to the field, and stay true to your goals.

More about Richard.

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