And Speaking of Biologists and Mathematics

Well, I see that Nick has been a little more active this last month.  Thus, it is with great guilt that I try to step beyond my laziness and post something!

First, some announcements:

  • I am going to try keeping the Mathematical Biology Seminar going this Fall quarter, though the meetings will be every other week.  My plan is to focus on Neural Network modelling and the use of NEURON software to implement some simple network models.
  • I would also like to keep the old CAMG meeting going, assuming there is any interest.  Drop a comment is you’d like to join us in exploring \LaTeX, as well as some other software.

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Biologists Need to Clean Up Their Math

I ran across this post from 2004 on jobs in Mathematical Biology.  In it they remind us that the onus is not only on we math-folk to bridge the gap between the two fields.  Biologists need to start cleaning up their math:

But the onus isn’t all on mathematicians. Biologists could use an infusion of mathematics as well, says Iya Khalil, vice president of R&D at Gene Network Sciences Inc. in Ithaca, New York. Biologists frequently run experiments that generate large amounts of data, but the usefulness of the data will likely depend on the design of the experiment. “In the realm of high-throughput experiments, often times [mathematicians] figure out that if the biologist had done the experiment in a particular way, it would have improved the statistics of the analysis by an order of magnitude,” she says. By then it’s too late.

“Biologists have to pick up the mathematics,” agrees Laubenbacher. “If you want to use your data to make a mathematical model, then you need to take the modeling method into account when you design new experiments. Different modeling methods will require different kinds of data.”

Proof that Humans Are Evil

The movie WΔZ was apparently inspired by Price’s equation:

Reed A. Cartwright goes into it here.

It describes how the change in trait with phenotypes is related to the phenotypes’ fitnesses, . Note that the genetics of the trait (mutation, ploidy, etc.) is contained in the second term. See Wikipedia for more details.

Now, of course, that doesn’t mean that we’re all going to hell. But, the movie which was inspired by a book on Darwin may make it seem that way:

“It featured a mathematical equation—W Delta Z—formulated by American population geneticist George R. Price,” he explains. “It supposedly shows that there’s no real altruism in nature; no such thing as selflessness. Price was so upset by his findings that he ended up giving away all his possessions to the poor and, eventually homeless himself, committed suicide with a pair of nail scissors in a filthy London squat.”

Now that’s what I call dedication to your work!

Evolutionary Dynamics

A review of a new book, “Evolutionary Dynamics” by Martin A. Nowak

Martin Nowak is certainly not alone when he argues, in Evolutionary Dynamics, that evolution is the single most significant idea in biology. But almost all major mathematical syntheses of evolution have been confined to population genetics–the study of gene frequency changes in populations. By contrast, Nowak (a professor of biology and mathematics at Harvard) follows up on Hardy’s last qualification for a great idea by showing the many ways in which the mathematics of evolution lead to advances in diverse subjects, including cancer, game theory, and language.

Mathematical Biology Seminar

Felicis and I are running a Mathematical Biology Seminar here at PSU. Felicis has been helping to bring us all up to speed on some of the basic Neuroanatomy of Hearing. (We’re starting with a paper co-authored by Lars Holmstrom of PSU entitled: Responses to Social Vocalizations in the Inferior Colliculus of the Mustached Bat are Influenced by Secondary Tuning Curves)

I’ll be talking next week about some basic modeling techniques in relation to the topic above.

This is a big deal for both Felicis and I, as we’re both primarily interested in doing work in Mathematical and Theoretical Biology here in the mathematics department. Felicis’s core area of interest is in Neurology, and mine is in Ecology and Evolution.

We’re meeting on Wednesdays at 3:30 pm. If you are a mathematics student (or for that matter a biology student) interested in mathematical biology, feel free to stop by the new conference room at that time on the 3rd floor of NewBurger Hall

For those totally new the Idea of mathematical biology, here’s the Wikipedia page.

And here are a few more links to wet your appetite:

Some equations from EqWorld

Why is Mathematical Biology so Hard? from the Notices of the AMA

Getting Started in Mathematical Biology, by Frank Hoppensteadt and the AMS