Case Study: Sarah-Beth Amos
Sarah-Beth is a BBSRC iCASE student in collaboration with the pharmaceutical company UCB. Sarah-Beth studied Biochemistry at King’s College London and it was there that she became very interested in the physics and mathematics underlying biology. Sarah-Beth cites Nate Silver’s book The Signal and the Noise as the book that changed her life; it led to an obsession with models, data, and whether or not we can ever really predict the future. She taught herself to program in her spare time and carried out undergraduate projects in nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy and computational biology. She was subsequently awarded an MRC scholarship to study for her MRes in Molecular Biophysics at King’s and carried out a project on molecular simulation of antimicrobial peptides. (https://www.nature.com/articles/srep37639)
An iCASE studentship with Prof. Mark Sansom enabled her to focus her DPhil on simulation, mathematical modelling, and developing new computational methods for simulation analysis. She began her project looking at simulations of peripheral membrane proteins and moved into developing Markov State model analysis of disorder in protein-membrane interactions. Her work considers regions of disorder that are often ignored because they are difficult to investigate, but are of great importance when it comes to understanding the complexities of biological signalling. She won the SCI Young Lipid Scientist Award and was invited to give a talk at the EuroFed Lipid Congress in Sweden. She also won the £1000 Peter Beaconsfield Prize from the Medical Sciences Division for academic excellence.
Sarah-Beth had the opportunity to spend 12 weeks with UCB as part of her DPhil. She chose to spend this time applying methods she had developed to target systems of interest. She has also been using machine learning to investigate experimental data.
As a firm believer that scientists should be rounded individuals, Sarah-Beth has taken many opportunities to develop new skills through the DTP. She organised a team to participate in the BBSRC Biotechnology Young Entrepreneurs Scheme. The team wrote and presented a pitch for a model start-up business and progressed to the national final at the Royal Society, where Sarah-Beth put her strategic number crunching to the test and acted as CFO. She particularly enjoyed getting to grips with advanced Bayesian statistics through a series of lectures, and took part in a public speaking course. She has also received training on career development and academic writing.
Sarah-Beth feels a strong obligation to society as a scientist and particularly enjoys her outreach work with girls, where she likes to get them to have a go at drawing 4-dimensional cubes and tells them the stories of Katherine Johnson and Margaret Hamilton. Coming full circle, Sarah-Beth gave an outreach workshop on mathematical modelling to students from her own school, Soham Village College, during their visit to Oxford.
Outside of science, Sarah-Beth is a keen trader on financial simulators. She hopes to use the skills she has learned in her DPhil to pursue a career in financial modelling and hopefully continue learning more about maths and models along the way.