The conference for all 11-19 mathematics teachers

27-29 June 2019

University of Bath

Plenary speaker: Friday

Professor Alison Etheridge

10:30-11:30, Friday 28 June

Modelling evolution

In 1859, Charles Darwin published `On the Origin of the Species by Means of Natural Selection' and in 1866, Gregor Mendel published the paper that established the essentials of our modern understanding of inheritance. Although we now regard these two theories as inseparable, Mendel's work was largely forgotten until the beginning of the 20th Century when, ironically, it deepened divides in the academic community over the mechanism of evolution. Indeed by 1910, Mendelian genetics was a thriving field of research, but it was widely believed to be incompatible with Darwinian selection. When the two fields were finally reconciled, the mathematical sciences played a crucial role. In this talk we shall outline some of the rich interplay between population genetics and the mathematical sciences and explain how even rather simple mathematical models can have important implications for the ways in which we look at genetic data.

Professor Alison Etheridge

Alison Etheridge completed her BA in Mathematics at New College in 1985. After a year as a research student in Oxford, she went to McGill as a Canadian Rhodes Scholars Foundation scholar before returning to New College in 1987 as Sir Christopher Cox Junior Fellow and Tutor for Women. Armed with an Oxford DPhil, she then worked in Cambridge, Edinburgh, UC Berkeley and QMUL before joining Magdalen as a Tutorial Fellow in mathematics in 1997. In 2012, she resigned her Tutorial Fellowship in order to take up a new position in the University, where she is an Associate Head of the MPLS division. She remains associated to Magdalen as a Fellow by Special Election.

Alison started her research career as a student of David Edwards in the Oxford functional analysis group. She rapidly became interested in the interface between probability and analysis, where she was particularly attracted by the way in which probabilistic arguments could be employed to provide intuitively appealing proofs of abstract results.

While at McGill, she was drawn further into probability theory and began working on the mathematical objects now known as superprocesses. Although drawn to study superprocesses by their rich and beautiful mathematical structure, she sees them as having provided a first taste of modelling biological populations. Although her work is still highly mathematical, and much of it is still driven by mathematical beauty, most recently her central interest has been a collection of mathematical problems arising in theoretical population genetics.