Prof John Biggins

Position: Retired academic staff
Home page:
Photo of John Biggins


MAS360 Practical and Applied Statistics Information uses MOLE


Interests: Applied probability
Research group: Probability
Publications: Preprint page, ArXiv, MathSciNet


Past grants, as Principal Investigator
Supercritical branching process; non-trivial limits and their tail behaviour EPSRC


Professor Biggins studied Mathematics at the University of Cambridge (BA 1973). The undergraduate degree was followed by an MSc (1974), with the main subject for this being Statistics, and a DPhil (1976), in Probability Theory; both postgraduate degrees are from the University of Oxford. He joined the staff at the University of Sheffield in 1976, and became a Professor in 1994. His main research interest is in applied probability, in particular branching processes and their applications (in biology, computer science, fractals, and non-linear differential equations), random walks and large deviation theory. He retired in April 2018.

Research interests:

The main thread in the research, running right back to my D.Phil, is branching random walk. Applications of the theory to a number of problems in theoretical computer science, and connections with fractals and non-linear partial differential equations (pdes), increased the profile of this work. These avenues (theoretical computer science, fractal structures and non-linear pdes) continue to reveal fascinating and challenging problems.

The branching random walk forms part of the general area of branching processes. I have further papers on other aspects of branching processes; specifically, the collaborations with J. D'Souza, N.H. Bingham, O. Nerman and H. Cohn represent work on different areas under this heading.

I have also studied a variety of other problems in probability theory: random walk, large deviations, random graphs, Markov Chains.

For some years I had an interest in the statistical issues involved in combining and scaling examination marks. This falls within the psychometric tradition in statistics, and it is rather different from the probability theory that is my main interest. It turns out that examination marks provide an interesting example of the need for these techniques that throws up some new and interesting theoretical problems. However I no longer follow this are actively.

Finally, I have a few papers that are the result of providing statistical expertise to colleagues outside Mathematics. The most notable are a series of collaborations with T.R. Birkhead FRS.