It was a snowy start to the week in Bath as we welcomed students, staff, and partners Roche and Spectra Analytics to SAMBa’s 13th Integrative Think Tank (ITT). On this occasion there were no weather-related transport woes as ITT13 was delivered entirely online which meant we could welcome participants from as far afield as Mexico.

Problem Formulation

Roche and Spectra Analytics presented high level challenges on portfolio analysis and planning, improving therapies for people with multiple sclerosis, using natural language processing to automate data processing tasks and adaptive clinical trial design. Groups of students, staff and partner representatives shared and discussed potential ideas and approaches which were then explored by teams as mathematical questions were developed. We rounded off the week with excellent presentations from students in their first year of SAMBa. We look forward to working with Roche and Spectra Analytics to determine how these questions can be taken forward collaboratively, for example as potential PhD research.

To ensure the best possible experience for everyone involved, we replicated the in-person ITT format as far as possible but built in opportunities for social interaction (using Gather and Vevox), and encouraged regular breaks from the screen, including a virtual ‘SAMBa walk to the seaside’.

ITT experiences from students old and new

It was wonderful to welcome back former SAMBa student Robbie Peck as one of our Roche colleagues. This is the first time a previous student has participated in a SAMBa ITT as a partner and we were keen to find out about Robbie’s experiences:

It was great to come back to a SAMBa ITT as part of an industrial partner team, after many good memories of participating as a student. It was interesting to describe the context of the questions rather than trying to build the mathematical formulation. The ITTs I attended as a student gave me lots of experience with collaborating in multidisciplinary teams to work on quantitative ideas and novel methods. The scientific communication skills I gained from this now mean I can better help involve mathematical and statistical models in decision making about the development of molecules into treatments which have the ability to change the lives of many people for the better.

Seb Scott, a current first year SAMBa student commented:

I thoroughly enjoyed attending ITT13. The crash course in natural language programming and machine learning to tackle a challenge brought by Spectra Analytics was incredibly insightful.

Jenny Power, also in her first year of SAMBa added:

My first ITT involved working on a challenge from Spectra Analytics to see if EEG can be used to monitor multiple sclerosis legions. The work was really interesting and my team were super supportive. What a week!

More ITTs to come

We are looking forward to welcoming researchers from the NHS Royal National Hospital for Rheumatic Diseases, Bath to ITT14, which will take place from 14-18 June 2021.

You can find out more about the ITT model, and read about previous ITTs, on the SAMBa webpage.