My Account

Ruth Bowness

Lecturer in Applied Mathematics
University of Bath

Tell us a fun fact about yourself.

As well as being a maths lecturer, I am also a Mum to four amazing children! I also love running and yoga when I have time.

Tell us about your career journey so far, from school to now.

Even as a small child I have always loved numbers, but it was when I started studying maths at A-level that I knew I wanted to make it my career. At that stage I loved the rules and algorithms that you had to follow to solve the puzzles. I went on to study maths for my degree at the University of St Andrews and here is where I came to appreciate all the applications of maths and the potential impact that mathematical techniques could have on real-world problems. After a Masters course at the University of Cambridge, I returned to St Andrews to complete a PhD. For my PhD I used maths to model the Solar Corona (the outer atmosphere layer of the Sun) trying to understand the ‘Coronal Heating’ Problem. After this I left St Andrews for a year to teach mathematics at a secondary school. Teaching is such a rewarding experience; it was lovely to help the girls at the school to see how exciting maths can be. Although I enjoyed this time, I missed research and wanted to go back to applying my maths to help address open problems. I saw a position advertised in the Medical School at the University of St Andrews on using mathematical modelling to understand tuberculosis (TB) disease. Through this job I finally found the right application for my passion of maths: mathematical biology. Using the mathematical modelling techniques that I learnt during my graduate degrees, I now model important biological processes and use maths to help understand more about human infection.

What is your job and what is your favourite thing about it?

I am a mathematics lecturer at the University of Bath and also do research, using mathematical models to study infectious diseases such as TB and COVID-19. I love being able to teach students the beauty of maths and the wide variety of exciting subjects you can apply it to. I also enjoy using my mathematical skills to help solve complex real-world issues such as contributing to the understanding about how infectious diseases affect us and testing new ways to treat these infections.

 Are there any women who especially inspired you to go into your career?

My high school maths teacher, Mrs Smith, was just amazing and always made maths seem so beautifully simple. She really encouraged me during my A-levels and then when applying for university. When I was studying for my undergraduate degree, I did a summer research project under the supervision of Professor Ineke De Moortel who really inspired me (and continues to do so). She is one of the main reasons I went back to St Andrews to do a PhD and start my career in academia.

Can you suggest an activity that could be done at home that illustrates an aspect of your work?

Check out this zombie game! It has mathematical models that you can play with to help you understand the transmission of infectious diseases.

Zombie Game

This page is part of our#BreakTheBias blog series for International Women’s Day 2022. We’re sharing the career stories of some of our incredible women YAS members. We hope this will give a snapshot of the wide variety of jobs that women work in today, and inspire girls & young women into careers that they may not yet have considered. To illustrate part of their job, each member has also suggested a fun activity for you to try at home!

To see more snapshots of YAS members, please return to our main International Women’s Day Gallery.

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