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Features: Faculty Insights


Four members of the Mathematics departments have been elected as new Fellows of the Royal Society. John Aston and Oscar Randal-Williams, from the Department of Pure Mathematics and Mathematical Statistics, and Eric Lauga and Mihaela van der Schaar, from the Department of Applied Mathematics and Theoretical Physics, have all been recognised for their outstanding work.

Over 90 exceptional researchers from across the world have been elected to the Fellowship of the Royal Society this year. The Royal Society is the UK’s national academy of sciences, and the oldest science academy in continuous existence, counting Isaac Newton, Charles Darwin and Stephen Hawking among its former Fellows.

The elected Fellows are leaders in their fields, and have been recognised for their invaluable contributions to science. In total ten of the new Fellows elected this year are Cambridge researchers.

Sir Adrian Smith, President of the Royal Society, said:

"I am pleased to welcome such an outstanding group into the Fellowship of the Royal Society.

"This new cohort have already made significant contributions to our understanding of the world around us and continue to push the boundaries of possibility in academic research and industry.

"It is an honour to have them join the Fellowship."



Professor Sir John Aston Kt FRS

Sir John Aston is Harding Professor of Statistics in Public Life in the Department of Pure Mathematics and Mathematical Statistics, where he leads research into the use of quantitative evidence in public policymaking, works with those in public life to ensure the best methods are used, and aims to improve the use of statistics and other quantitative evidence in public policy debates. He also works in the area of statistics in healthcare, particularly medical imaging, and is Co-Director of the Cambridge Mathematics of Information in Healthcare Hub. From 2017 to 2020 he was the Chief Scientific Adviser to the Home Office, he was a founding director of the Alan Turing Institute, and was awarded a knighthood in the 2021 Queen’s Birthday Honours for services to statistics and public policymaking. 

Aston specialises in applied statistics, with particular interests in official and public policy statistics, statistical neuroimaging, and statistical linguistics. "I'm really interested in how you can use statistics to gain insight into lots of different areas," he said in this interview in 2021. "I get to look at medical imaging data one day, look at linguistics and understand how languages evolve another day, and look at how the economy works another day. All these things have a lot of commonality in the types of statistics and mathematical models you can use."

Read more about John Aston's work in our feature interview from 2021.


Professor Eric Lauga FRS

Eric Lauga is Professor of Applied Mathematics in the Department of Applied Mathematics and Theoretical Physics (DAMTP). His research is in the field of biological physics and fluid mechanics.

Research in fluid mechanics has long been motivated by the desire to understand the world around us, and a detailed look at the biological world generates endless new and exciting problems in fluid mechanics. Much of Lauga’s research activity is centered on developing quantitative models for novel questions in biological fluid mechanics. 

Through mathematical analysis, Lauga studies the role played by viscous flows in living systems, revealing instances where fluid dynamics underlies fundamental physical processes and discovering new and unsuspected role of flows. His interdisciplinary work is often done in collaboration with experimentalists from the world of biology, engineering and soft matter physics, allowing novel studies at the intersection between active matter and fluid dynamics.

Watch his talk on 'Life in Moving Fluids' for the Cambridge Philosophical Society’s 2022 annual G I Taylor lecture to learn more about the area in which he works.


Professor Oscar Randal-Williams FRS

Oscar Randal-Williams is the Sadleirian Professor of Mathematics in DPMMS. He works in Algebraic and Geometric Topology, the part of mathematics dealing with global properties of spaces. "These two subjects historically had a lot to do with each other but developed in different directions, and these days people who tend to do one tend not to do the other," he said in this interview when he took up the Sadleirian Professorship in January 2024. "But I like the interaction, [taking] questions about spaces that people are interested in from other parts of mathematics, like geometry, and then using the tools of algebraic topology to study them."

He is particularly interested in moduli spaces, meaning spaces of all possible mathematical objects of some type. His work on moduli spaces of manifolds - in collaboration with Søren Galatius - forms the basis to modern approaches to that subject, and most recently he has been exploiting this to study moduli spaces of extremely simple manifolds, such as discs or Euclidean space. 

Randal-Williams has previously been awarded the Whitehead Prize, a Philip Leverhulme Prize, the Oberwolfach Prize, the Dannie Heineman Prize of the Göttingen Academy of Sciences and Humanities, and was jointly awarded the Clay Research Award. 

Read more about his recent work in this feature interview.


Professor Mihaela van der Schaar FRS

Mihaela van der Schaar is the John Humphrey Plummer Professor of Machine Learning, Artificial Intelligence and Medicine, and Director of the Cambridge Centre for AI in Medicine (CCAIM), based in DAMTP.

Her research focus is on machine learning, AI and operations research for healthcare and medicine. Her previous research has also contributed to many other fields, including signal and image processing, communication networks, network science, multimedia, game theory, distributed systems, machine learning and AI. She is personally credited as inventor on 35 USA patents, many of which are still frequently cited and adopted in standards. Her work on machine learning for healthcare includes the development of methods for forecasting individual risks, and looking at ways of improving diagnosis and treatment options for patients with a wide range of conditions including heart failure, cystic fibrosis, breast cancer, and Alzheimer's disease.

Discover more about Mihaela van der Schaar's recent research in this article.