INI is very pleased to welcome Dr Milla Kibble (née Anttila) in the role of Deputy Director, an appointment that she will hold until December 2024.
Having worked at the University of Cambridge’s Centre for Mathematical Sciences since 2018, Milla is no stranger to INI and the activity surrounding its many research programmes and workshops.
Read more about her diverse research background, and help us offer her a warm welcome to the Institute via the short written interview below.
> Milla can be contacted via firstname.lastname@example.org
Tell us a little bit about your career so far – have you always been a mathematician?
I started studying physical sciences at UCL because at the time I wanted to be a volcanologist, but switched to a maths degree after my first year. I gained a PhD in pure mathematics (high dimensional convex geometry and probability theory) also from UCL in 2000. After that, I have held different roles all of which have been related to mathematics – one could say that I have always been a mathematician.
After my PhD I worked in a small mathematical consultancy in Oxford called Numbercraft, where we applied mathematical methods to gain insights from large, mainly retail, data sets. I found that I particularly enjoyed the small, speculative genomics projects that involved visiting hospitals and clinical research institutes. This led me to return to academia to work on biological applications of data analytics. I worked at the University of Turku, Aalto University and Institute for Molecular Medicine Finland (FIMM), all in Finland, combining research with teaching of maths and also academic-related roles, for example supporting the undergraduate education strategy and leading a professional development programme for postdocs at FIMM.
For the last five years, I have been working as the Research Facilitator at the Department of Applied Mathematics and Theoretical Physics (DAMTP) here in Cambridge. I have been fortunate over my career to be able to combine academic research with roles supporting students, researchers and the advancement of research as a whole.
What’s your specialism? Is there any field of research that you’re particularly focused on?
My research now is completely different to my PhD work. My PhD was entitled “Concentration Estimates and the Central Limit Problem for Convex Bodies” and was supervised by Professor Keith Ball. It was in pure mathematics and involved proving theorems with just pen and paper. My work now is very applied, using large data sets and computer code to answer real world health related questions. Broadly speaking, I am interested in discovering mechanisms in disease prevention. For example, I have used mathematical methods applied to transcriptomics data to try to discover molecular mechanisms of plant polyphenols in the context of breast and prostate cancer. During the pandemic, I was awarded an MRC fellowship to work as part of the COVID-19 Longitudinal Health and Wellbeing National Core Study. We used data from the Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children (ALSPAC) to investigate questions such as what factors are associated with a poor immune response to COVID-19 vaccination. I really enjoy working in multidisciplinary teams.
Have you ever visited INI before, or taken part in any activities here?
Working at DAMTP, my office has been just a few hundred metres from INI and I have cycled past every day. It is always especially nice to see people arriving at the start of an INI programme. I have myself visited many times for seminars and short conferences, most recently for the Modelling to Support Resilience for Pandemics event in summer 2022, which was excellent.
What attracted you to the job of Deputy Director?
I particularly like thinking about the big picture and strategy, talking with people from diverse disciplines and backgrounds and connecting people and ideas. I gain satisfaction from driving forward collaborations, research projects and opportunities for researchers, especially where there is potential to make a positive impact on society. I feel strongly about fostering creativity and an inclusive and supportive environment for the mathematical sciences. The role description felt like a good fit to my interests and to what I enjoy.
What are you most looking forward to, now that you’re in the role?
I am really looking forward to meeting the INI team and finding out about everyone’s roles. Then I’m excited to see how I can contribute. This is a new role for me, and that always comes with a bit of trepidation. This is an exciting time at the INI and I feel very privileged to be able to play a role in supporting the Institute.
Is there anything else we should know about you?
Now that my children are older, I am finding that I am less busy outside work. I have started singing in one of the college choirs and am training for my first ever half-marathon – wish me luck.