Life in the Lab: Science and Faith Working Together

For Rhoda Hawkins, her belief in God was one of the factors that led her to study science. In this series of videos, Rhoda explains why she is a scientist and a Christian, how the two fit together, and the role of wonder in her work and faith.

To find out more about Rhoda’s work and faith, and the importance of wonder and awe in science, see God in the Lab: How Science Enhances Faith (Monarch, 2015).

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Reflections on Mind and Matter: Should we mind & does it matter?

Cells, stained to show the inner skeleton (green)
Cells, stained to show the inner skeleton (green). Example image from the ImageJ-Programmpaket (public domain)

This month’s guest post is from Rhoda Hawkins, a theoretical physicist from the University of Sheffield. Rhoda recently spoke on ‘Should we mind, and does it matter?’ at the Christians in Science student conference. Here, she asks how much Christians should be involved in discussing questions of science and faith.

Why should we engage our minds in science and religion issues? Why should we engage with the big questions of mind and matter? Firstly Christians who are scientists are whole, integrated people – body, mind and spirit – so to be true to ourselves and to God we should hold together the different aspects of who we are. Continue reading


Sunflower cells, Kriss Szkurlatowski,
Sunflower cells. © Kriss Szkurlatowski,

Is doubt a necessary by-product of wonder? This is the second part of my interview with theoretical physicist Rhoda Hawkins (part 1). For Rhoda, the intellectual grappling she enjoys in science is also there in her Christian faith. Wondering, or thinking at a deeper level, is crucial to both.

I love seeing wonder in other people. Sometimes I get to watch the light dawning on a student’s face as they come to understand something for the first time, or it’s a shared experience of wonder with a research student or a colleague. Sometimes those moments are too rare, but if I got them all the time I would take them for granted. Even the struggle is contributing to that sense of wonder, because it’s more amazing if it’s difficult and complicated. If climbing the mountain was too easy, then you wouldn’t feel so happy when you got to the top. It’s more of a long-term picture. Continue reading


bacteria nze1njq
Bacteria. © Dez Pain,

What motivates a scientist to wrestle with difficult questions? Rhoda Hawkins is a lecturer in Physics at Sheffield University. She uses theoretical physics to tackle biological problems, and her main area of research is cell movement. I recently interviewed Rhoda about the role of wonder in both her research and her faith.

I find cell movement incredible. You’ve got a blob of squidgy material crawling across a surface or squeezing through a gap, and if it’s a white blood cell it might be doing something more complicated like chasing a bacterium. How is a relatively simple cell capable of doing such things? In my research group we try to model the cell and think about its physical properties. I collaborate with experimentalists – mainly biologists and other physicists, who test our predictions. I like hanging out in the lab every now and then to watch what the biologists are doing. If the experiment shows something different to what we predicted, then that might mean the model is wrong so we change the theory, and that informs new experiments. Maybe one day some of my work might be useful in medical applications: perhaps a better understanding of the immune system or the movement of metastatic cells in cancer. Continue reading