Photo:

Sam Tazzyman

Thanks to everyone who voted for me, and to my father who gave me an interesting surname, getting me lots of votes!

Favourite Thing: I like going to new places to talk to new people about my work.

My CV

School:

Felpham Community College, in Bognor Regis, from 1993 until 2000. I did A-Levels in Maths, Further Maths, Physics and German.

University:

I studied Mathematics at the University of Warwick for four years from 2000 to 2004. Then I studied my PhD in Evolutionary Biology for three years from 2007-2010 at University College London.

Work History:

I worked for Goodwood Motor Racing, in the ticket office, during my summer holidays at university, and then for a year or so after I graduated.

Employer:

I currently work at University College London.

Current Job:

I am a scientific researcher.

Me and my work

I use mathematics to look at animal mating – what they find sexy and why, amongst other things.

There is a lot of variety in animal sex lives! To give you an idea, here are some examples of weird and wonderful behaviour. Peahens fancy peacocks because of their bright colour and huge tail, which is strange because these things would make the peacock more likely to get caught and eaten by a predator. In seahorses, it’s the males that get pregnant, not the females. In snails, which are both male and female, part of the courtship involves harpooning one another with love darts. Finally, in preying mantids, the female has to bite the head off the male before the end of sex! There are lots of examples of weird things that animals do, but they all have one thing in common: they came about through evolution. I use maths to try and find out what it is about these behaviours that makes them so good, to see why they started, and why they continue.

My Typical Day

I spend a lot of time trying to do maths in pencil on paper, before screwing up the paper when I get it wrong!

There’s a lot of variation in my days, so I don’t really have a typical routine. However, I am usually woken up by my girlfriend who is getting ready to go to work. Then I have a cup of tea, check to see if I’ve got any emails over night, and then go onto campus. My office is at University College London, near Euston Station. I spend a lot of my day sitting at my desk, which is covered in bits of paper, books, pens, and pencils. My time is taken up largely with writing equations out and then crossing them out and throwing the paper away when I get it wrong, which happens a lot. When I get it right, however, it feels great! Sometimes I have to write up the work on the computer, either for a scientific paper or for a presentation to other scientists.

I also spend time during the day talking to the other people in my office, making cups of tea (I drink lots and lots of cups of tea in an average day), answering emails, and going to seminars. In the evening I get home and cook dinner for my girlfriend (who usually gets home later than me as well as leaving the flat earlier than me), or go out and see friends.

What I'd do with the money

I’d start a website about the strange world of animal mating habits.

My Interview

How would you describe yourself in 3 words?

Tall and talkative

Who is your favourite singer or band?

What is the most fun thing you've done?

I drove across India in a Tuk-tuk for charity – it took 16 days!

If you had 3 wishes for yourself what would they be? - be honest!

I suppose I am not allowed to write “I would wish for more wishes”? I would wish to be cleverer than I am, that my family and friends stay well, and that my football team would win a trophy soon!

What did you want to be after you left school?

I had no idea – I went to university to study Mathematics, but I didn’t know what I wanted to do after that.

Were you ever in trouble in at school?

Not really. I occasionally got told off for talking when I should have been listening.

What's the best thing you've done as a scientist?

I got a scientific paper published that got newspaper and internet coverage from The Sun, Metro, The Daily Mail, The Independent, The Telegraph, The Times of India, and Playboy (amongst others).

Tell us a joke.

“My girlfriend recently went to the Caribbean” “Jamaica?” “No, she went of her own accord”