Women in STEM: Dr Natasha Morrison

Dr Natasha Morrison is a Research Fellow in mathematics at Sidney Sussex College and a member of the Department of Pure Mathematics and Mathematical Statistics. She completed her PhD at Oxford and her undergraduate studies at Durham. Her research focuses on a branch of mathematics which models the behaviours of networks, from how diseases spread to how viral stories circulate on social media.

I study the structure and properties of networks. One area of my research concerns the ’bootstrap percolation process’ which can be thought of as a model of the spread of disease on a network. Mathematical results about this process have impacts on many other disciplines, including physics, computer science and sociology. For example, it has been used to model the way opinions spread through a social network, or model neural networks.

Imagine a social network. The people in this network can be represented by a set of nodes, and if two of the people are close friends, the nodes are connected - this can be represented by a line between the nodes. If some people in this network catch a contagious disease, then this disease may spread throughout the network. The bootstrap percolation process obeys the following rules: a particular set of people are infected initially, and if a person is not infected they are healthy. In this model, once someone is infected they remain infected forever. If a person is connected to at least two infected people, they also become infected. The process stops when it is not possible for anyone new to become infected.

I study questions about this process and related processes on a variety of different networks. I hope my research will lead to progress on a number of exciting and important conjectures in combinatorics, the branch of mathematics I work in. At the end of my fellowship I hope to be able to secure a permanent academic position.

I spend a lot of time thinking about mathematical problems. This generally involves staring at a sheet of paper or a board, and thinking about and discussing them with other mathematicians. Learning about other peoples’ methods and results is also helpful, as perhaps those techniques can be applied to what I am working on. Once we have solved a problem, we then try to write it up in a paper - and this is probably what takes up most of my time. I also do various sorts of teaching and some outreach in schools and in college. My research has also given me the opportunity to travel all over the world. I have been to conferences in a number of exciting locations, including Brazil, France and Israel, and I have been on research visits to work with mathematicians at other institutions.

Cambridge is a world-class university for mathematics. There are so many incredibly intelligent, lovely people in my field here to collaborate with. I really enjoy being part of a college community and I find my colleagues in college incredibly helpful and supportive towards my work.

Sign up to receive our weekly research email

Our selection of the week’s biggest Cambridge research news and features direct to your inbox from the University. Enter your name and email address below and select ’Subscribe’ to sign up.

The University of Cambridge will use your name and email address to send you our weekly research news email. We are committed to protecting your personal information and being transparent about what information we hold. Please read our email privacy notice for details.


This site uses cookies and analysis tools to improve the usability of the site. More information. |