Physical and Mathematical Veterinary Medicine

Physical and Mathematical Veterinary Medicine

The scientific fields of Physics and Mathematics are inextricably linked to those of Biology and Medicine at all scales. From the long-standing use of electromagnetic radiation in diagnostics or the use of Maths and Physics to model processes in diseases such as cancer or healthy tissues such connections are evident. In spite of this, however, the exploration of whether Physics, together with Mathematics, can be fully employed to solve medical conditions is still in its in fancy. This exploration is central to the Philosophy of PhysMathsVetMed, and we strongly believe that the blending of Biology and Medicine with Physics and Mathematics will provide unified theories and technical innovations that will be reusable by our industrial partners and academic collaborators.

Micro-CT scan of lamellae from an equine foot

Key aims and expertise

The PhysMathsVetMed Group differs from other interdisciplinary groups for two main reasons:

  1. The PhysMathsVetMed group embraces transdisciplinary research and encourages holistic approaches. Members of the group are supported to do research in both Physics/Maths and Biology/Medicine. There is a good reason for this: there is no better way to learn something than to do it yourself. Furthermore, we believe that the next generation of scientists are those who will be able to adapt their way of thinking to different problems (and not the opposite way around) as a function of the field studied and be experimentally flexible. We therefore encourage members to step outside their comfort zone and explore new ways of looking at the world (a biologist is expected to do Physics and Maths and a physicist is expected to do Biology, and full support for those steps is guaranteed – see comments from past/current members below). 
  2. The PhysMathsVetMed group focuses its research primarily on Veterinary Medicine. Human Medicine has long remained centre stage of interdisciplinary research, with very little attention being afforded to the field of Veterinary Medicine. Given the imbrication of humans and animals today, we believe that using Maths, Physics and Biology to improve understanding of animal conditions will increase the efficiency and sustainability of animal production, reduce waste in the food chain and minimise negative environmental impacts. In addition, through a comparative Medicine this will also permit new understanding of human conditions (see an example of a project below: the recently developed hoof and nail theory).


Papillae of the coronary corium.  Cells from these structures proliferate to create the hoof capsule.  The unique architecture of papillae allows the establishment of a growth stress.


Comments from current/past members:

Emily Paul (MRes; Funding period: 2014/2015; Funder: Weston Award)

"As an Applied Biology graduate with a passion for horses, I had never considered the important role that Physics could play in bettering the understanding of equine laminitis – my long-standing desire. When I started my MRes I had very little knowledge of Physics, and it soon became apparent to me that this was a great shame and a substantial limiting factor for those with any involvement in biological research. Physics and Biology can, in fact, simply be regarded as different ways of looking at the same thing. As a novel viewing angle necessarily adds another dimension, it is the combination of Physics with Biology which is able to provide elucidation on matters which would remain obscure with one discipline alone. The lack of inter/trans-disciplinarity is, I feel, born from the fear of Physics which is typically instilled in one from a young age, as it is often described as difficult and abstract, or even incomprehensible. Very few people get the opportunity to learn about both Biology and Physics in any depth, and even fewer then have the chance to apply these in the veterinary field. I feel extremely privileged in this respect and, through my involvement in this project and with the invaluable support of the PhysMathsVetMed people, I am learning a great deal more than I ever thought possible about both these scientific disciplines, about the horse, and about myself and my own capabilities"

Mohammed Cherkaoui (PhD; Funding period: 2012/2015; Funder: Vertex Pharmaceuticals): “As an applied mathematician and physicist, I have always been attracted by true interdisciplinary studies. However, very few places allow you to do both Maths/Physics and Biology and push you to think and go the extra mile. The PhysMathsVetMed Group is doing exactly that: it provides support where you need it the most and pushes you to think holistically. It is a unique experience anyone ought to try to open horizons and career perspectives”.


Current projects

The PhysMathsVetMed Group Research spans across different fields including:

Current Industrial Collaborators: Vertex Pharmaceuticals ( and Waltham (

Funders: Vertex Pharmaceuticals, Waltham, BBSRC.

Significant results

  1. Dr Cyril Rauch and Dr Stuart Paine have been awarded two iCASEs from BBSRC (total ~£500k) to develop project collaborations with Vertex Pharmaceuticals.
  2. The work on nail growth and conditions by Dr Cyril Rauch and Ms Cherkaoui published in Oct 2014 has been downloaded more than 5000 times ( and has been cited many times by the media. Googling “rauch nottingham nails” brings up around 344000 results.

Research team

Related research

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Physical and Mathematical Veterinary Medicine

The University of Nottingham
School of Veterinary Medicine and Science
College Road, Sutton Bonington, LE12 5RD

telephone: +44 (0) 115 951 6451