Mario Recker is Associate Professor in Applied Mathematics at the University of Exeter and a member of the Philosophical Transactions B Editorial Board. Here, he talks to us about his research and the influences on his career.
I work on the evolutionary ecology of infectious diseases, including malaria, dengue and MRSA. In particular I am interested in the various ways that pathogens (viruses, bacteria or protozoa) interact with their hosts and how these interactions not only shape the patterns of individual infections or epidemics but also influence pathogen evolution. Although my research tool of choice is mathematical modelling, I work closely together with laboratory or field-based scientists, which allows me to test model predictions and create novel, testable hypotheses. I believe that this synthesis of theoretical and empirical research is becoming more and more important in biology, especially nowadays where vast amounts of data can be generated in little time and at very little cost and where new analytical and modelling tools are required to distil from the data desired information and thus provide new insights about the underlying biological processes.
I first got interested in this field during my PhD with Prof. Sunetra Gupta at Oxford University, when I also started to collaborate with Prof. Chris Newbold. Both have had a massive influence on my research career, not least by showing me how theoretical and empirical scientists can, or even should, be working together to describe and ultimately understand complex behaviours in infectious disease, ecology and evolution. It is encouraging to see that more emphasis is now put upon interdisciplinary research, encouraged for example through particular requirements of funding agencies, but also through journals such as Philosophical Transactions B.
One of the main reasons for joining the editorial board of Phil Trans B was curiosity: I wanted to find out how the whole editorial process of a scientific journal worked, how decisions were made regarding the acceptance or rejections of manuscripts or theme proposals, and how strategies and future directions were put into place for the journal to keep up its prestigious appeal to researchers. But what it also offered was a fascinating overview of exciting new research areas I had not come across before, melding disciplines and methodologies that up until recently would not have been mentioned within the same context. Once again, multidisciplinarity seems key, both for making attractive theme proposals for Philosophical Transactions, but also for scientific research in general.