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Outreach and public engagement

The School of Mathematics and Statistics strongly believes in engaging with the next generation of mathematicians and statisticians through a range of outreach and public engagement activities.

Children taking part in activities demonstrating the estimation abundance of wildlife populations

The School welcomes approaches from external organisations, groups and individuals to interact and participate in the world of mathematics and statistics. Here you can see some of the events the School organises and takes part in.


Dr Jonathan Fraser, Outreach Officer


Upcoming events

  • Prizegiving June 2020 in St Andrews (Cancelled due to Coronavirus)

  • Sunday 28 June to Friday 3 July 2020

  • Saturday 11 July 2020 to Saturday 1 August 2020


Recent events

  • Wednesday 12 February 2020

  • 30 September to 6 October 2019

Below are some examples of staff who are very enthusiastic about outreach activities and would be delighted to visit local schools or attend other events in order to give maths lectures at a variety of levels.

Feel free to contact individuals directly if you know what you are looking for (follow link to personal webpage to find contact information). If you want to speak to somebody more generally, then please contact Jonathan Fraser or Hannah Worthington who are the current Outreach team.

Jonathan Fraser, Reader

Jonathan is a pure mathematician working mostly with 'fractals'. Roughly speaking, a fractal is an object which exhibits interesting behaviour on a large range of scales, such as stock market fluctuations, or the surface of a lung. Fractals appear in many contexts across science and Jonathan's research focuses on the abstract mathematics which underpins fractal behaviour. He is very enthusiastic about outreach and would be delighted to discuss potential opportunities for outreach lectures, which could be on a variety of topics including fractals (of course), number theory, or various aspects of geometry, for example 'hyperbolic'.

Jonathan Fraser's website

Hannah Worthington, Lecturer

Hannah is a statistician who primarily investigates animal populations. Hannah’s research looks to answer questions about animal behaviour such as breeding ages and movement between sites, survival probabilities and factors influencing survival and trying to estimate population sizes of sometimes difficult to catch species. Hannah is happy to speak to students of any age about her research, or statistics in general, through talks or interactive activities.

Ruth Bowness, Research Fellow

Ruth uses mathematical techniques to model the spread of infectious diseases in the human body. She uses differential equations and individual-based computational models to mimic disease progression and simulate novel treatment strategies. She currently focuses on tuberculosis infection and other antibiotic resistant infections. Ruth could talk to pupils about how calculus and other mathematical tools can be used to help further understanding in medical research.

Ruth Bowness's website

Stuart Burrell, PhD Student

Stuart's research is on fractal geometry. He investigates various properties of complex geometric shapes that often mirror the kind of patterns we see in nature. Stuart would be very enthusiastic to talk about his research and what it is like to be a PhD student, or to offer interactive problem solving workshops.

Stuart Burrell's website

Fiona Macfarlane, Research Fellow

Fiona is a mathematical biologist who works on mathematical modelling of cancer. Mathematical models can help researchers to understand cancer evolution and predict the success of different treatment techniques. Fiona specifically considers how the human immune system interacts with cancer cells with the aim to find the optimum way to boost the natural response to remove cancer. Fiona is happy to be involved in outreach projects with schools or the general public, this could include short presentations on cancer modelling or the research area of mathematical biology.

Fiona Macfarlane's website

Lars Olsen, Professor

Lars is a pure mathematician working on fractal geometry. Roughly speaking, 'fractals' are sets which exhibit interesting structures at arbitrarily small scales. Such objects appear naturally across science and studying them in a mathematical framework is of great interest. He is interested in various properties of fractals, including the relationship between their geometry and their dimension theory. Lars can can give expository talks at the high school level on most topics in pure mathematics. He has recently given talks at several high schools on, for example, 'Infinity' and 'Fermat's last theorem'.

Paolo Pagano, Research Assistant

Paolo investigates the solar corona by means of computer simulations. The solar corona is the outer layer of the solar atmosphere where the million degrees temperatures and the strong magnetic fields shape an extremely interesting environment. Computer simulations are an extremely useful and flexible tool to figure out how it is possible the corona is so hot and how plasma and magnetic fields are continuously ejected from the solar corona to the interplanetary space. Paolo truly enjoys his research and is always looking for opportunities to share his enthusiasm in public lectures or activities about space weather, solar physics, and astronomy.

Valentin Popov, Associate Lecturer (Education Focused)

Valentin's main interest lies in time series analysis, in particular application of Hidden Markov Models to fields such as ecology, medicine, geography, etc. He has also worked on estimating dependence in a financial market framework. Related to that, he also finds interest in portfolio selection. Valentin has given talks to pupils on Benford's law, which can be applied to detect fraud as well as presenting his research in the form of a comedy talk within the Bright Club.

Valentin Popov's website

Nik Ruskuc, Professor

Nik is working on abstract algebra and combinatorics. His work has connections with theory of computation. He would be happy to deliver problem-solving workshops in local schools, and, in particular, discuss mathematical competitions such as Scottish and UK Mathematical Challenges and Mathematical Olympiads with interested pupils (and teachers).

Nik Ruskuc's website

Louis Theran, Lecturer

Louis is a mathematician working in geometry and related areas. His main research interests are in 'rigidity theory', which deals with how things like chains, scaffolds, a creased piece of paper, or even a bunch of marbles in a jar move (or, in the case of a scaffold, hopefully don't move). Questions like this appear in many scientific contexts, including engineering, materials science, and some more unexpected ones like data analysis. Louis is interested in the underlying theory, especially the relationship between concrete geometric ideas like shape and motion to more abstract 'topological' properties that related to how a structure is linked together. He is very enthusiastic about outreach and is happy to discuss activities that can include lectures but also hands-on activities involving paper-folding and playing with toys like polydrons.

Louis Theran's website

James Threlfall, Research Fellow

James is an applied mathematician, who uses mathematical models and computer simulations to understand more about the behaviour of the outer layer of the Sun, called the corona. The solar corona is one of the most fascinating places in the entire solar system, where strong magnetic fields burst through the visible surface of the Sun and underpin much of the unique behaviour seen there (including massive eruptions, flares, waves and incredible temperatures). Mathematics plays a vital part in helping scientists to understand these unusual phenomena (and in mitigating some of their effects which might impact life on Earth). James loves learning about the Sun, and would be keen to share his enthusiasm for combining mathematics and the Sun to audiences of any age (having given talks on this topic to primary and secondary school audiences and the general public at large, for example). 

James Threlfall's website

Stephanie Yardley, Research Fellow

Stephanie's research focuses on magnetic field modelling to try and understand the evolution and eruption of the Sun's magnetic field. Alongside her research she is actively involved in outreach and regularly gives talks, demonstrations and provides space related activities for school children of all ages. She would be delighted to discuss potential opportunities for outreach lectures, which could be on a variety of topics including: solar and lunar eclipses, the Sun's atmosphere, the northern lights, the solar systems and the search for life, comets and asteroids, stars and galaxies, black holes. Stephanie would also be able to run workshops related to these subjects (e.g. solar eruptions, exoplanets, landing on Mars).

Stephanie Yardley's website

Centre for Research into Ecological and Environmental Modelling (CREEM)

The Centre for Research into Ecological and Environmental Modelling (CREEM) is an interdisciplinary research centre that focuses on wildlife conservation, specifically developing new statistical methods and applying them to issues in wildlife ecology and conservation. CREEM has been actively engaging with the public for many years and has a group of around ten researchers who regularly take part in science festivals and visit schools, colleges and youth groups. Activities and talks are mainly based around wildlife population monitoring and broadly aim to highlight the importance of quantitative skills within biological and environmental sciences.

CREEM has a suite of activities that can be delivered by any of its researchers. These include activities that relate to counting different types of animals (rhinos, squirrels, whales, seals, butterflies) using different survey methods (plot sampling, line-transect surveys, mark-recapture). The centre also has activities that explore how far whales’ calls travel in the ocean and ways to assess biodiversity.  All of its activities can be adapted depending on the target age group.

CREEM has an in-house mural that depicts all of its research areas, and there is an accompanying website and leaflet. To view the mural and find out more about the research, then visit the Observatory building.

To discuss participation in an event please contact Catriona Harris (email:

CREEM Website