Yesterday, I was reading some of the question Can I Use My Powers for Good? and it got me thinking. It's quite an old question (3 years), so I don't want to resurrect it and also my own question's emphasis is slightly different. It's basically this.

What sort of opportunities are there for (pure) mathematicians to do work that doesn't just earn them or their company money, but makes a real difference to other people in the world?

And now onto the emphasis of my question:

I am particularly interested in the idea of applying maths (not necessarily applied maths, but applying maths) to biology, particularly in the case of disease.

For example, consider the Eliminate Dengue Program/Project. This project is looking at ways to, as the name suggests, eliminate dengue, which occurs mostly in tropical regions. For me, this would be an excellent project to work on in the sense of "using my powers for good".

I am particularly interested what people know about similar such programs, and how much they are in need of mathematicians doing actual maths. By that I mean mathematicians doing work that needs to be done by mathematicians. (Compare with a lot of banking jobs that like mathematicians, but for their "familiarity with numbers", and so are equally happy with physicists, engineers or computer sciences.)

Note 1. I'm from the UK, not the Us. Personally, the idea of working in the US isn't appealing to me (no offence intended!!). I wouldn't mind doing something in Europe (but speaking English), or somewhere like Down Under or NZ; preferably the UK though. :)

Note 2. Of course, there's always the following argument: become a banker, earn shed loads of money, retires about 10/15 years in and then set up own charity/non-profit organisation, quite possibly helping charities with funding on the way. I'm looking for answers other that this! :)

Note 3. If any this question, or any part of it, is not clear, please don't just downvote and say nothing. Instead, just Let me know what's unclear, and I'll do my best to make it clearer! I realise that some of these things are difficult to explain!

Thank you for your time in reading this. Any advice given will be gratefully received!

Sam OT
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    Your bar for work that is 'actual maths' might be high. Even so, one of my favorite research institutions, the Broad of MIT/Harvard, does great work helping get the bottom of disease. The Director of the Broad Eric Lander has a PhD in Mathematics and the computational and analytical work they do there with biological data is world class. – Simon S Jan 31 '15 at 14:41
  • Yes, I agree that wanting to do "actual maths" does make the set of possible answers considerably smaller! Thank you for your suggestion though. I should have mentioned in the post that I'm not actually American, but English, I don't particularly like the idea of working in America - however, I shall look into the Broad of MIT/Harvard, as I would imagine that they do stuff all over the place. – Sam OT Jan 31 '15 at 16:26
  • FYI, you might enjoy this intro course on Quantitative Biology: https://www.edx.org/course/quantitative-biology-workshop-mitx-7-qbwx#.VM0LB1XF_c4 – Simon S Jan 31 '15 at 17:04
  • @SamOT You may want to take a look at [this](https://mathoverflow.net/a/341860/91764). Note that there's tag [medicine](https://mathoverflow.net/questions/tagged/medicine) at MathOverflow. – Rodrigo de Azevedo Oct 26 '21 at 19:52
  • @RodrigodeAzevedo Thanks :) – Sam OT Oct 27 '21 at 15:30

1 Answers1


For disease modelling and "real world" stuff, try Penn State. Especially if you want to keep it mathy. They seem to have a really great group there. They have even collaborated on a coursera course before. For example, Penn is currently looking for a postdoc to create mathematical models for the study of ebola.

As for the UK, I have heard the names Andy Gardner and Stuart West come up more than once. They may be more interested in evolutionary questions though. And perhaps less mathy (?)

Finally you might want to check the Society for Mathematical Biology website. They have job postings there that you might find interesting.

Carly Rozins
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