University Staff Spotlight on... Dr Kit Yates

I've been here a little over three years now. As part of the academic family my role involves teaching a third year course, a big second year course and research and administration.

My research is in the area of Mathematical Biology where I try to better understand the way in which randomness affects biological systems. I look at anything from the way that voters vote in an election, to swarms of locusts, to gene regulatory networks.

I am also the Department for Mathematical Sciences widening participation, outreach and engagement officer. I organise and am part of a dedicated group of students who deliver outreach called the Mathletes.

What would you most like to achieve while at the University?

I’d like to improve the outreach offering of the University and encourage more students from less advantageous backgrounds, students who wouldn't typically have thought about applying to University, to apply.

Name one thing that makes you feel proud to work at the University of Bath?

I think, in comparison to many other Universities, Bath really does care about the student experience. Lecturers work extremely hard to deliver quality teaching to their students. I think this is something we can all be proud of at the University.

Who was your most influential teacher/educator, and why?

When I was an undergraduate, I was lectured in Mathematical Ecology and Biology by Professor Philip Maini. His lectures were so engaging they really piqued my interest. I applied to do a PhD in Mathematical Biology and Philip ended up being my supervisor. He was an incredibly kind and understanding supervisor as well as being a brilliant academic. He helped to prepare me for life as an academic and continues to act as an example for me.

As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?

When I was ten years old my mum died from cervical cancer. I decided then that I wanted to be a scientist so that I might fight against this terrible disease. I distinctly remember kids making fun of me when I said I wanted to be a scientist, but that didn't bother me too much. Somewhere along the line I found out that I really enjoyed mathematics, so I fell off the science train a little bit. But when I got a couple of years into my undergraduate degree I found out there was an area of maths called mathematical biology which allowed me to be a mathematician, but also to have an influence on the biological sciences. Today my focus is on the importance of randomness in biological processes.

If you could start your own dream business, what would it be?

I've often thought about establishing a barbers up on Campus, if only so I don't have to go down into town to get my hair cut.  I think it would do good business. If anyone at the uni wants to come in on it with me, let me know!

What’s your favourite book or album and why?

‘What's the Story Morning Glory?’ By Oasis. It was the first album I ever owned (on tape). As a kid I grew up a mile or so from Burnage where the Gallagher's grew up and the music spoke to me, it was part of what defined me when I grew up.

It's not the most complex or subtle music, but in terms of its emotional content, songs like "Don't look back in anger" and "Wonderwall" still have the power to bring tears to my eyes over 20 years on.

When are you happiest?

Getting home from work, if my kids are there, and having them run up and mob me. There's nothing better than that.

If you could meet anyone in the world dead or alive who would it be and why?

My all time hero is David Attenborough. He's an example of a morally upstanding scientist who actively advocates against the problems our world is facing instead of burying his head in the sand. He was also a pioneer of his genre, making programmes that, at the time, were almost inconceivable.

What would people be surprised to learn about you?

I have two tattoos on my arm. They are bees designed my Brother who's an artist. The stripes on the bees encode E and W in binary which are my children's initials.

Tell us your favourite joke

Infinitely many mathematicians walk into a bar. The first says, "I'll have a pint." The second says, "I'll have half a pint." The third says, "I'll have a quarter of a pint." Before the fourth can ask for an eighth of a pint the barman stops him and pours out two pints. The mathematicians complain, "That's all you're giving us? How drunk do you expect us to get on that?" The bartender says, "Come on guys. Know your limits."

If you know of a colleague who’d like to raise the profile of their work or has an unexpected hobby, email with the subject ‘Staff Spotlight recommendation’.

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