Professor Paul Harper

Professor Paul Harper

Deputy Head of School, Professor of Operational Research

School of Mathematics

+44 (0)29 2087 6841
M/1.36, 1st Floor, Mathematics Institute, Senghennydd Road, Cardiff, CF24 4AG
Media commentator

My research interests are in: stochastic OR, including queueing theory, simulation methods, optimisation, and game theory; mathematical modelling of healthcare systems; mathematical modelling for the prevention, early detection and treatment of diseases; machine learning and data mining techniques

Author of more than 80 peer-reviewed papers and book chapters, I have been a named investigator on £6M of funded research grants, recipient of a Times Higher Education award for ‘Outstanding Contribution to Innovation and Technology, founding editor-in-chief of the international journal Health Systems (Taylor & Francis) and Director of Health Modelling Centre Cymru. 

I am an elected Fellow of the Learned Society of Wales (FLSW) and REF2021 sub-panel member (assessment phase) for Mathematical Sciences. 

Professor Paul Harper's personal website


  • 2015 - 17 : Director of Postgraduate Taught Studies
  • 2013 - : Deputy Head of School (School of Mathematics, Cardiff University)
  • 2011 - : Editor-in-Chief, Health Systems (Taylor & Francis)
  • 2011 - : Director of Impact & Engagement, School of Mathematics
  • 2010 - : Director, hmc² (Health Modelling Centre Cymru)
  • 2009 - : Head of the Operational Research Group, Cardiff University
  • 2008 - 12: Cluster leader for Operational Research and Statistics, WIMCS.
  • 2007 - 11: WIMCS Research Chair in Operational Research, Cardiff University
  • 2006 - 07: Senior Lecturer in Operational Research, University of Southampton
  • 2001 - 06: Lecturer in Operational Research, University of Southampton
  • 1997 - 02: Research Fellow, Institute of Modelling for Healthcare, University of Southampton


  • 2005: PG Certificate in Education, University of Southampton
  • 2002: Ph.D. School of Mathematics, University of Southampton
  • 1996: M.Sc. School of Mathematics, University of Southampton
  • 1995: B.Sc. Department of Mathematical Sciences, University of Bath

I teach the following modules:

  • MAT001 – OR Methods
  • MAT003 – Communicating and Research Skills
  • MAT009 – Healthcare Modelling

PhD students


  • Emma Aspland (with Daniel Gartner and Velindre Cancer Centre / KESS 2 funded)
  • Sarie Brice (with Daniel Gartner)
  • Geraint Palmer (with Vincent Knight)
  • Tom Rodwell (with Vince Knight and Cardiff & Vale Univesity Health Board)
  • Mark Tuson (with Daniel Gartner and Aneurin Bevan University Health Board)
  • Emily Williams (with Daniel Gartner and Welsh Blood Service / KESS 2 Funded)


  • Elizabeth Rowse (2015): Robust Optimisation of Operating Theatre Schedules
  • Robert Shone (2014): Optimal Control of Queueing Systems with Multiple Heterogeneous Facilities
  • Angelico Fetta (2014):  Modelling Adolescent Smoking Behaviours with Social Network Analysis
  • Marion Penn (2014): Developing a Multi-Methodological Approach to Hospital Operating Theatre Scheduling
  • Leanne Smith (2013): Modelling Emergency Medical Services
  • Julie Vile (2013): Time-Dependent Stochastic Modelling for Predicting Demand and Scheduling of Emergency Medical Services
  • Joe Viana (2011): The Development of a Combined Simulation Approach in a Sexual Health Context: Combining Discrete Event and System Dynamics Simulation to Form a Composite Model.
  • Shivam Desai (2011): Modelling Social Care Needs of Older People in Hampshire
  • Dileep Da Silva (2011):  Dental Public Health Needs for Sri Lanka.
  • Michael Thorwarth (2011): A Simulation-based Decision Support Model to improve Healthcare Facilities Performance – elaborated on an Irish Emergency Department
  • Evandro Leite (2009): Decision Trees
  • Honora Smith (2008): Locating Sustainable Community Health Facilities.
  • Jennifer Sykes (2007): Healthcare Behavioural Modelling
  • Naomi Powell (2006): Simulation and Optimisation of Healthcare Workforce Needs.

Research group

My primary research interests are in:

  • Stochastic OR, including queueing theory, simulation methods, optimisation, and game theory
  • Mathematical modelling of healthcare systems
  • Mathematical modelling for the prevention, early detection and treatment of diseases
  • Machine learning and data mining techniques

Healthcare systems are typically characterised by complexity, variability, uncertainty and use of scarce resources.  To model such systems requires the development of suitable mathematical and simulation models that are able to account for the stochastic conditions, complex and large-scale patient pathways and disease processes, and at both operational and strategic levels.  Various novel approaches have been developed by myself and colleagues at Cardiff (and with collaborators worldwide), including those in queueing and game theoretic models (for example time-dependent and priority queues, and routing games), hybrid simulation methodologies (DES, Agent-based, SD, Monte Carlo methods), location theory and optimisation, social network models for disease propagation, and health behavioural models.

Funding has come from many different sources to support my research and translational findings, including EPSRC, The Royal Society, The Leverhulme Trust, Nuffield Foundation, NIHR, ESRC, Health Foundation,  the Department of Health,  Welsh Government,  and various NHS partners.

I was delighted to establish a mathematical modelling unit in collaboration with the Aneurin Bevan University Health Board.  A team of post-doctoral research associates/fellows, a  lecturer in OR, and several PhD students have been funded by ABUHB and they work between the University and Health Board (as researchers -in-residence).  In addition Cardiff and Vale University Health Board regularly fund both PhDs and post-docs.  

In 2015 the team won a University Innovation award for our research and impact, and a prestigious Times Higher Education award for ‘Outstanding Contribution to Innovation and Technology'.

My research, and that with many collaborators, has led to sustained impact and significant benefits to the NHS and patient care, resulting in increased efficiency and effectiveness of healthcare systems, and improved outcomes.  Projects have included reducing waiting times,  reducing elective patient cancellations, ambulance modelling (forecasting demand, location analysis, crew rostering), finding the most effective and equitable locations on for healthcare facilities,  advising on the cost-effectiveness of strategies for preventing and screening for disease such as informing policy on cancer, HIV/AIDS and Chlamydia screening.