Lancaster University

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Prize Once Won By Stephen Hawking Awarded To Lancaster Academic

03/22/2007 09:42:36

Dr Paul Fearnhead
Dr Paul Fearnhead

A mathematician at Lancaster has been awarded one of Cambridge University’s oldest and most prestigious prizes.

Dr Paul Fearnhead from the Department of Mathematics and Statistics has been awarded the Adams Prize in recognition of his outstanding research. The Prize is awarded jointly each year by Cambridge’s Faculty of Mathematics and St John’s College to a researcher under the age of forty who is doing first class international research in the Mathematical Sciences.

Previous winners include Stephen Hawking, James Clerk Maxwell, Sir Harold Jeffreys, Sir William Hodge, Roger Penrose and the only female winner, Susan Howson.

Dr Fearnhead, who is a Reader in Statistics, said he was delighted to have won.“I was very pleased to hear that I’ve won and it was a bit surprising to get the call.”

He joined Lancaster University after completing a PhD at Oxford University, where he was also a postdoctoral researcher. His research interests include computational statistics and population genetics.

Population genetics involves analysing genetic data obtained from a random sample of individuals from a population. One particular focus of Dr Fearnhead's research has been using population genetic data to learn about recombination rates. This is important as, for example, knowledge of human recombination rates helps with the design and analysis of studies aimed at learning about the genetic factors of diseases.

Professor Timothy Pedley, Chairman of the Adams Prize Adjudicators, said: “Paul Fearnhead has made major contributions to several areas of computational statistics and population genetics. His methodological work in population genetics includes innovative methods for estimating recombination rates and new algorithms for exact sampling from genetic models. He has also provided practical, elegant and theoretically-supported solutions for challenging problems in particle filtering.”

The Adams Prize is named after the mathematician John Couch Adams and was endowed by members of St John's College in 1848. It commemorates Adams’ discovery of the planet Neptune, through calculation of the discrepancies in the orbit of Uranus. The award is currently worth £13,000 which is split between the winner and their university while the final third is paid on publication of a paper in a major mathematics journal.

Dr Fearnhead has already been awarded the RSS Guy Medal in Bronze 2007. This is the top statistics prize in the UK for early career statisticians, with the silver and gold going to statisticians in the middle and at the end of their research careers.