A maths expert from Burley-in-Wharfedale has become the first woman to win a 120-year-old international prize.

Dr Susan Howson, now a lecturer at Nottingham University and a Royal Society fellow, was awarded the £12,000 Adams Prize for the world-class standard of her research.

A panel of maths professors decided her work on a branch of number theory involving 'elliptic curves', a field used in code writing and breaking, was the best submitted for this year's competition.

The former Burley-in-Wharfedale Middle School and Ilkley Grammar School student's ground-breaking success received widespread coverage across the national media.

Speaking to the Ilkley Gazette this week, the 29-year-old said: "I am surprised and overwhelmed to have won the award, and at all the interest it has generated!

"I am quite proud to be the first woman to win, but it's also a bit sad, really, the fact that women haven't been more involved in pure maths and research.

"I think it's better at school but there's still work to be done in further education, although around 40 per cent of maths graduates are female now, so we're getting there."

Dr Howson credits her old Burley Middle school teacher, David Womersley, for getting her hooked on the subject, and then Ilkley Grammar teachers David Brown and Chris Kilvington for spurring her on.

She said: "They stressed the more creative side of maths rather than concentrating on just the syllabus, exam paper type stuff, which isn't really what maths is about at all.

"I owe them all a big 'thank you.' Winning has also been really nice for my family, who are all chuffed. I think seeing me in the papers has been great for my mother and father because what I do isn't the kind of thing you can easily explain to others!"

Awarded by Cambridge University each year to a young British mathematician, the Adams Prize takes its name from John Couch Adams, who discovered the planet Neptune through theoretical calculations.