By Rebecca Pike
I am a 4th year PhD student studying Theoretical Biology. In my research I apply mathematical modelling tools to behavioural biology. My research aims to investigate the decisions and behaviour of parents focussing on different aspects of being a parent. For instance, who should you choose for a breeding partner, how many offspring should you have and how should you care for your offspring?
You can catch Rebecca on her Soapbox at the Bristol event on Saturday 15th July 2017 where she will give a talk called: “Why copying Beyonce might be a bad idea: The effect copying role models has on our fertility”
SS: How did you get to your current position?
RP: I am currently a 4th year PhD student, although my viva is next week so I should have my PhD very soon!
I wanted to study for a postgraduate degree because of the project I completed in my undergraduate degree. My project used Evolutionary Game Theory to understand social norms and cooperation in human society. I really loved the idea of using maths to understand complicated human interactions and how something as abstract as emotions and behaviour could be explained mathematically. After teaching secondary school maths for two years I got back in contact with my supervisor from that project in the hope that I could study this further and he became my supervisor for my PhD.
SS: What is the most fascinating aspect of your research/work?
RP: I think the most interesting aspect of my research is being able to describe animal decisions and animal behaviour using equations and mathematical models. This method is useful as it allows you to understand what influences animals to behave the way they do.
SS: What attracted you to Soapbox Science in the first place?
RP: I think it’s important to talk to a wide variety of people (and not just other scientists) about new research and luckily it is also really enjoyable! I like that Soapbox not only showcases cutting edge research but gives a realistic impression of scientists. I hope that our talks inspire people to engage with science and maybe become scientists themselves!
SS: Sum up in one word your expectations for the day
SS: If you could change one thing about the scientific culture right now, what would it be?
RP: I think the availability and competition for grants is limiting both in terms of who continues in science and the topics that are researched. Increasing job security for early career scientists would make a beneficial difference, especially for those who have families.
SS: What would be your top recommendation to a woman studying for a PhD and considering pursuing a career in academia?
RP: To be a bit selfish – pursue the research questions and activities that you are interested in or passionate about and try not to compromise. It’s your career and it’s ok to sometimes say no!