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Podcasting About: Maths + Cancer

In this series of posts, we’ll be featuring mathematical podcasts from all over the internet, by speaking to the creators of the podcast and asking them about what they do. For this special edition, we’re featuring the Maths + Cancer podcasdt, which was hosted by the late Vicky Neale.

We spoke to Dyrol Lumbard, from the University of Oxford’s Mathematical Institute.

Podcast title: Maths + Cancer
Links: Spotify, Apple Podcasts, RSS
Average episode length: 50 minutes
Recommended episode: Vicky speaking to Hannah Fry

Maths + Cancer podcast image - Oxford Uni logo with the words 'Maths + Cancer' underneath

What is the podcast about, and why did it start?

The podcast is part of the Oxford University Cancer Campaign, which focussed on the work in the area carried out by Oxford researchers. Its inspiration was Vicky Neale’s own personal experience of cancer and her awareness of colleagues in Oxford Mathematics and beyond who were working in the field. It began in November 2022 and ran for 6 weekly episodes of about 50 minutes each, with Vicky interviewing colleagues in mathematics, statistics and medicine about their work.

Who is the intended audience for the podcast?

It’s for reseachers in the field, other academics and the general public – and feedback suggested that all of these groups were reached and affected by the podcast. The podcast covers a variety of topics – Vicky discussed the relevance of maths to cancer with Professor Philip Maini and explored the importance of the communication of risk with Professor Sir David Spiegelhalter, and she also spoke to Medical Physicist Dr Tom Whyntie about the role of maths in medical imaging and cancer treatment.

Photo of Vicky Neale, a smiling white woman with long blonde hair and blue-framed glasses, wearing a shirt and navy jumper

Why should people listen? Why is it different to other mathematical podcasts?

Two main reasons: mathematics’ involvement in this field is relatively recent and the work is fascinating; but also because maths and statistics has an important story to tell about cancer, in particular about the risks. And there is Vicky herself, candid and inspirational.

What are some highlights of the podcast?

The Hannah Fry episode is a superb breakdown of what numbers and risk really mean, both mathematically and emotionally.

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