Pupil to present paper at major conference

Forfar Academy sixth-year pupil Luthais McCash with the paper he will deliver at a major conference at the University of Bristol next month.
Forfar Academy sixth-year pupil Luthais McCash with the paper he will deliver at a major conference at the University of Bristol next month.

A sixth-year pupil at Forfar Academy is set to become the first school pupil, and perhaps the youngest in the world, to present a paper at a three day conference at the University of Bristol next month.

Luthais McCash (17) will attend the Young Researchers in Mathematics Conference from April 2 to 4 after writing a paper, which he is hoping to get published, after completing a two week work placement at the University of Dundee.

Working alongside PhD students he was inspired to research cancer and compiled “Cancer Tumour Growth Described using the Predator Prey Model”, which he will present at the annual conference in Bristol which attracts post-graduate and post-doctoral students at every level. The paper demonstrates the relationship cancer has with your body.

Luthais is so driven in his quest to study mathematical biology at university that he arranged the week’s placement at Dundee University, and has also secured a six week funded research post at the university which he will begin after completing his final exams at Forfar Academy.

Looking forward to the conference Luthais said: “It is predominantly for those who are PhD graduates and young post-doctoral researchers. I organised a one-week placement with the Division of Mathematics at Dundee University, because I am interested in the subject. The week was going so well and I was getting so much out of it - contacts, speaking to people, discussing different research - that I was invited back by two of the lecturers for a second week.

“During my time there I started researching cancer, which comes under the field of mathematical biology. In its simplest terms it is applying and coming up with mathematical equations which can replicate biological processes.”

Luthais, a former pupil of Langlands Primary School, spoke of his interest in researching how cancer works and what can be done to help prevent it happening, from a mathematical model.

He continued: “Two years ago my grandmother passed away with cancer. Since then I have been very interested in doing what I can, including donating to certain fund-raising events at school. Then I thought I could model cancers and maybe do something to help those who have got it.”

Luthais, a member of the Society of Mathematical Biology, worked closely with one of the PhD students - Mr Mark Sturrock - to compile his paper.

He continued: “By the end of my second week I had a very basic framework. I worked on it from October through to December when I was made aware of the conference in Bristol. I gave them a phone and told them I had this paper, I was only 17 and still at school. They said they had never had that before!

“I became interested in mathematical modelling about two years ago when I had spent a week and a bit at the University of St Andrews in the School of Chemistry. I was looking at organic compounds and realised everything can be expressed in terms of mathematics. It’s a universal language.”

Following his placement at St Andrews in December 2010, Luthais completed his first paper which was based on his interest in organic chemistry.

He acknowledges the support and encouragement he has had from his maths teachers, Mrs Moschovakis, as well as his parents, Fiona and James, and his brother, Brodie.

He has also received financial assistance from Forfar Academy’s School Funding Committee which will help towards the cost for his trip to Bristol.

Jo Dwyer of the University of Bristol’s Department of Mathematics is one of the conference organisers. She said: “Young Researchers in Mathematics is a three day conference, held at the University of Bristol, organised by and for young researchers. It’s a chance for them to meet and discuss research and ideas with other students from across the country.

“Each year the conference is attended by almost 200 students, and around 100 talks are presented by delegates. This year, Luthais McCash has registered to give one such talk based around a paper he co-wrote with a postgraduate student. This is very unusual as, in general, the conference is only open to postgraduates and post-doctoral students.”