Professor Heather Harrington has joined the team of directors at the Max Planck Institute (MPI-CBG) in Dresden. In her position, she will also lead the interinstitutional Center for Systems Biology Dresden (CSBD) together with partners from the Technical University Dresden and the Max Planck Institute for the Physics of Complex Systems. She has also been appointed as honorary professor at the Faculty of Mathematics at the TU Dresden. Her vision is to create new mathematical approaches to glean additional information about living systems and understand how they self-organize across scales. Professor Harrington is a Supernumerary Fellow at St John’s College and also a Professor of Mathematics at the Mathematical Institute at the University of Oxford.
Commenting on her appointment, Professor Harrington said:
‘I am delighted to join the Max Planck Society and to be a director at the MPI-CBG and the CSBD. We will be creating new mathematical frameworks to model and analyse the detailed and multi-dimensional data we generated in modern biology. We will develop and apply techniques from nonlinear algebra to analyse complex spatio-temporal systems and from computational topology to study the shape and structure of high-dimensional data. I’m excited to explore new opportunities to collaborate with researchers at the institute and the wider TU Dresden and Saxony research landscape. I have combined mathematical models with biological data throughout my career. And it is clear now that there is enormous untapped potential in understanding the shape and structure of biological data. By more formally characterizing the multi-scale and multi-dimensional relationships between different types of data, we can look towards a deeper understanding of organisms across multiple scales.’
" There is enormous untapped potential in understanding the shape and structure of biological data... we can look towards a deeper understanding of organisms across multiple scales. " Professor Heather Harrington
Professor Harrington’s group will develop mathematical approaches to understand biological systems on multiple scales, from genes to tissues. Given the abstract nature of mathematics, the methods Heather and her team will develop can be applied to many different systems and contexts. There is huge scope for understanding disease in a new light.
Professor Harrington received her PhD in 2010 from the Department of Mathematics at Imperial College London. After postdoctoral years at Imperial College London and the Mathematical Institute at Oxford, she became an associate Professor and Royal Society University Research Fellow at Oxford in 2017, where she was promoted to Professor of Mathematics in 2020. She was elected to St John’s College as a Research Fellow in Mathematics and the Sciences in 2018 and as Supernumerary Fellow in 2023. She is affiliated with the Wellcome Centre for Human Genetics as an Associate Group Leader. Heather became a director at the MPI-CBG and the Center for Systems Biology Dresden in October 2023.
Heather’s research interests are applied algebra, dynamical systems, networks, topological data analysis, and systems biology. Her research group develops mathematical approaches to study problems in the natural and medical sciences. She has received several prestigious awards, such as the Whitehead Prize of the London Mathematical Society in 2018 or the Philip Leverhulme Prize in 2020, for advances in the analysis of noisy data. She was a co-winner of the 2019 Adams Prize from the University of Cambridge.