Postdoctoral research fellow Raffaella Mulas was recently awarded the “Donna di scienza giovani" – a prize in her native island of Sardinia honouring female researchers in science. We spoke to Raffaella about her work applying mathematical theory to problems in biology and machine learning, as well as her passion for swing dancing.
Tell me about your research in a nutshell?
My research focuses on the mathematical study of networks. I have generalised many mathematical results that were already known for graphs to the case of hypergraphs: these are mathematical objects in which a link can join any number of nodes, rather than just two. As part of my project with the Turing, Mapping biology from mouse to man, I'm also applying my theoretical results to problems such as data analysis in biology and quantifying the certainty of machine learning classifiers.
What aspect of your work is most exciting you right now?
Interdisciplinarity! Working on interdisciplinary projects, which I'm doing at the moment, is exciting and stimulating. It allows me to get out of my comfort zone and learn from different perspectives.
What do you hope is the impact of your work?
My hope is to offer effective models and tools for the study of real networks such as biochemical, neural, social, epidemic, and dynamical networks. I hope that my work can be used by both the mathematical and the scientific communities.
What’s been the most memorable moment of your career so far?
At the beginning of the second year of my PhD, my supervisor Juergen Jost introduced a scientific conference by presenting my research results. That moment gave me so much motivation to keep going with my work.
Tell me something surprising about yourself?
My dad would have liked me to have dedicated my life to sport. I swam competitively for 10 years and also took part in competitive water polo and karate. I travelled for competitions and even won the Italian Karate Championships in my category. However, I decided when I was seven years old that I wanted to become a mathematician and my dad was unable to change my mind!
And finally, when not working what can you be found doing?
Mostly swing dancing and doing scientific outreach. l have recently launched a series of YouTube videos entitled The Dancing Mathematician, which is published weekly by the Italian Mathematical Union.