Skip to main content

Research and Postgraduate opportunities


Researchers in the Mathematics for Health and Life Sciences group develop and use mathematical methods to understand biological systems including the brain. Our researchers are based in the Medical School, Mathematics, Physics and the Living Systems Institute (LSI), a 52m investment by the University into interdisciplinary approaches to understand living systems and disease. We work within growing a cross-university infrastructure for the mathematics of living systems, using our mathematics to drive collaborations and scientific advances across the life sciences and medicine.

Our work is inspired by many application areas including epilepsy, dementia, depression, movement disorders, psychosis and schizophrenia, perception, hormone dynamics and gene regulatory networks, to name but a few. Our group has a unique interdisciplinary approach: carry out our own experiments in neurophysiology, in neuroendocrinology, on the dynamics of swimming, on the dynamics of human perception. These activities are driven by close collaborations with clinicians, including neurologists, cardiologists, endocrinologists and dermatologists, as well as experimental biologists and neuroscientists.

Our research is broadly focussed on understanding living systems using mathematical models. A main focus is the development of predictive models to better understand, diagnose and treat chronic health conditions that present significant challenges to society, such as diabetes and dementia, as supported by the EPSRC Hub for Quantitative Modelling in Healthcare the EPSRC-funded Centre for Predictive Modelling in Healthcare. These activities are driven by close collaborations with clinicians, including neurologists, cardiologists, endocrinologists and dermatologists, as well as experimental biologists and neuroscientists. This requires the development and application of approaches from dynamical systems theory combined with image processing, data analysis, optimisation and uncertainty quantification. Our work covers a spectrum from fundamental mathematics of dynamical systems to applications in biology and healthcare.

In the above video, Jen Creaser uses dynamcal system theory and numerical simulations to explore how changes in network structure and intrinstic node properties affect the emergent dynamics of entire networks. She uses this framework to make connections from mathematical theory to applications in neuroscience including epilepsy. Jen discusses the so-called domino effect in the onset of epileptic seizures. Find out more about this in our blog post.

The Domino Effect In Seizure Onset In Epilepsy

Jen Creaser "How I think about seizure onset as a cascade of dominos".

Kirsty Wan's lab investigates the motility and dynamical behaviour of remarkable organelles called cilia and flagella. They work at the interface of physics, mathematics and biology, seeking to combine and develop novel interdisciplinary methods to provide new insight into the origins, control, and mutability of life at the microscale.

Find out more on Kirsty's personal website.

Swimming quadriflagellate dikaryon of Chlamydomonas

Double breaststroke swimming in a quadriflagellate dikaryon produced by fusion of two Chlamydomonas gametes.

Chlamydomonas flagella beating (breaststroke coordination)

The unicellular biflagellate alga Chlamydomonas reinhardtii swims a coordinated breaststroke interrupted by noisy phase slips.

James Rankin's research investigates the dynamics of sensory perception. Developed a neural field model of the spread of orientation-selective neural activity in primary visual cortex with collaborator Frederic Chavane at CNRS & the University of Marseilles/Aix en Provence.

Dynamics of orientation selectivity in a V1 Neural Field Model

This videos shows the dynamics of the spread of orientation-selective activation (right) within the general non-selective activation (left) in primary visual cortex (V1). Produced in a neural field model with connectivity fit to anatomical data. The orientation-selective component of the activity is confined to the feedforward footprint of the simtulus (red). Find out more about James' research on his personal website and read the paper 'Neural field model to reconcile structure with function in primary visual cortex'.

  • 2021 - 2025 EPSRC Hub for Quantitative Modelling in Healthcare £1.2M EP/T017856/1, PI: Krasimira Tsaneva-Atanasova
  • 2020 - 2021 EPSRC Centre for Predictive Modelling in Healthcare £242,649 EP/N014391/2Co-I/Deputy Director: Krasimira Tsaneva-Atanasova, Co-I: Marc Goodfellow
  • 2020 - 2025 ERC Starting Grant: Moving around without a brain: Evolution of basal cognition in single-celled organisms (EvoMotion) €1,950,430 link, PI: Kirsty Wan
  • 2019 - 2022 Technical University of Munich (TUM) Institute for Advanced Study (IAS) Hans Fischer Senior Fellowship Transient Emergent Network Dynamics €150,000 PI: Krasimira Tsaneva-Atanasova
  • 2019 - 2022 BBSRC standard grant: Dynamic network reconfiguration at the transition between motor programs £284,000 BB/T002352/1, co-I: Roman Borisyuk
  • 2019 - 2023 BBSRC US Partnering Award , An integrative approach to understanding the GnRH pulse generator: combining in-vitro, in-vivo and in-silico methodologies, £49,600 BB/S019979/1, co-I: Krasimira Tsaneva-Atanasova collaboration with Kings College London and Oregon Health and Science University (OHSU), Portland, Oregon
  • 2018 - 2021 EPSRC New Investigator Award: Neural oscillator network modelling of auditory stream segregation £173,945 EP/R03124X/1, PI: James Rankin
  • 2018 - 2021 Alan Turing Institute Fellowship £27,740, PI: Krasimira Tsaneva-Atanasova
  • 2018 - 2021 MRC Skills Development Fellowship: Identifying patient-specific brain dynamics markers in Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and Cognitive Treatment Response, £305,647 MR/S019499/1, PI: Jen Creaser
  • 2018 - 2021 BBSRC standard grant: A novel mechanism underlying GnRH pulse generation by KNDy neurones £370,362 BB/S001255/1, PI: Krasimira Tsaneva-Atanasova, collaboration with Kings College London
  • 2018 - 2021 Academy of Medical Sciences Springboard award: Genesis and control of motile cilia £100K, PI: Kirsty Wan
  • 2017 - 2019 Royal SocietyNewton Mobility Grant: Biomedical modelling of hormone dynamics at the interface of stress and metabolism £12,000, PI: Krasimira Tsaneva-Atanasova, collaboration with UNAM Mexico
  • 2017 - 2019 EPSRC first grant: Quantifying uncertainty in perturbed brain networks: towards a decision support tool for epilepsy surgery £101,000 EP/P021417/1, PI: Marc Goodfellow
  • 2017 - 2023 Wellcome Trust grant: Neural Dynamics: from synapses to systems in health and disease £2,084,000 108899/B/15/Z, co-I: Krasimira Tsaneva-Atanasova, collaboration with University of Bristol
  • 2016 - 2019 Epilepsy Research UK: An Optimal Computer Model for the Diagnosis and Prognosis of Epilepsy £150,000k, Co-I: Marc Goodfellow
  • 2016 - 2023 Wellcome Trust ISSF grant: Translational Research @ Exeter £1,500,000, Co-Director: Krasimira Tsaneva-Atanasova
  • 2016 - 2019 EPSRC Centre for Predictive Modelling in Healthcare at the University of Exeter £2,008,955 EP/N014391/1, Co-I/Deputy Director: Krasimira Tsaneva-Atanasova, Co-I: Marc Goodfellow 


Postgraduate research

The centre, as part of Mathematics and Computer Science at Exeter maintains an international reputation for research and we continue to invest in top-quality academics and offer a range of projects to research students to enhance this expertise. For more details of our facilities and training programmes, see our pages for taught postgraduate and research postgraduate degrees.

Apply for the taught programme MSc Mathematical Modelling (Biology and Medicine)

Apply for a research degree at the centre

Current funded postgraduate research studentship opportunities are listed on our studentships webpage and some ideas for PhD projects are listed below. If you are interested in doing a PhD within the centre, do please contact potential supervisors to discuss possible projects - you can apply online.

Visitors to the centre

We regularly host visiting researchers of all levels to the centre for stays of a few days to a few weeks. If you are interested in spending some time at the centre, contact a potential host and discuss this with them. Please note the David Rees fellowship offers opportunities to fund visits to mathematics at Exeter.

In 2020 we hosted a Fullbright Scholar, Casey Diekman from the New Jersey Institute of Technology.

In March 2021 Dr Oleksandr Burylko (Institute of Mathematics, Kiev, Ukraine) os to visit Roman Borisyuk and our group following a Recent small grant from London Mathematical Society.

See personal homepages of academic staff for more suggestions of possible research projects.

  • Computer-in-the-loop control of cellular population dynamics (Kyle Wedgwood)
  • Pattern formation via long-range cell-to-cell contact: revisiting Turing's morphogenesis hypothesis (Kyle Wedgwood)
  • Developing a whole brain model to generate scalp level spatio-temporal brain rhythms (Jen Creaser)
  • Mathematical modelling and analysis of brain dynamics in PTSD (Jen Creaser)
  • Mathematical modelling and analysis of antibiotics uptake in gram negative bacteria and implications for antimicrobial resistance (Krasi Tsaneva-Atanasova)
  • Mathematical modelling for precision medicine (Krasi Tsaneva-Atanasova)
  • The nonlinear neural dynamics of synchronising to complex rhythms (James Rankin)
  • The impact of hearing loss on language networks (James Rankin)
  • A mathematical and computational framework for neurobiological modelling: Behaviour-driven optimisation of neural connectivity (Roman Borisyuk)
  • What does that neuron do: A study of the neural circuits that produce swimming in the tadpole (Roman Borisyuk)
  • Dynamics of locomotion and phagocytosis in shape-changing cells: theory and experiments (Kirsty Wan)
  • A novel opto-hydrodynamical platform for studying microorganism movement in three-dimensions (Kirsty Wan)
  • Modelling convergent cell signalling pathways mediating the neurophysiological stress response (Jamie Walker)
  • Modelling the relationship between ion channel expression and electrical activity in stress-sensitive cells (Jamie Walker)
  • Linking models of large-scale brain networks with data to understand neurological disorders (Marc Goodfellow)
  • Personalised brain models for the management of epilepsy (Marc Goodfellow)