Melding Math and Biology
Your body is full of math. From the constant flow of molecules in and out of your cells to the nerve signals zipping through your brain, your physiological processes can be described in terms of mathematical terms and models. It’s an approach to biology and physiology that moves from observational science into fundamental physical principles, according to some mathematicians, including the University of Utah’s James Keener. This week, Keener and his fellow mathematical biologists gather at the U for the 2017 annual meeting of the Society for Mathematical Biology. As part of the proceedings, the society will award Keener the inaugural John Jungck Prize for Excellence in Education. Keener recently spoke with @theU.
Faculty Spotlight: Vahe Bandarian
Chemistry Professor Vahe Bandarian is exploring the biosynthetic pathways that are involved in the production of modified nucleic acids, such as those found in RNA. In fact, RNA is among the most highly modified biological molecules, with more than 100 modifications observed to date. While most modifications entail simple transformations, some are so-called hyper-modified bases where multiple steps are involved. Recent studies point to links between RNA modifications and cellular processes, some of which underlie diseases.
Faculty Spotlight: Davar Khoshnevisan
Davar Khoshnevisan, a Professor of Mathematics, was recently appointed as the Department Chair for Mathematics at the U. He started a three-year term on July 1, 2017. “I am honored to serve as Department Chair,” says Khoshnevisan. “We have a world-class faculty, an amazing staff, not to mention fantastic graduate students, visitors, and post docs. It will be a pleasure to work more closely with them toward our many common goals.”
Physics & Astronomy
Finding Refuge In Education
On a balmy morning in late May, fifteen newly-graduated high schoolers and their families filed into the Art Works for Kids Auditorium on the University of Utah campus, greeting one another with excited chatter. The parents beamed with pride — many of their sons and daughters were the first in the family to attend college. Tino Nyawelo, assistant professor in the Department of Physics & Astronomy, cleared his throat in a futile attempt for the group’s attention. Failing to get it, he smiled at the crowd, thinking of his own journey to the university against overwhelming odds. He cleared his throat again, and this time won over the room.