NIMBioS News
Bi-Monthly News from the National Institute for Mathematical and Biological Synthesis
November/December  2009 - Vol 1, Issue 4
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Request For New Activities
We are actively seeking organizers for new scientific and educational activities at NIMBioS. All areas of research at the interface of biology and mathematics will be considered, but we are especially interested in activities expanding beyond the areas of research supported to date. Potential organizers of activities in areas of molecular biology, cell biology, network biology, immunology and systems biology are particularly encouraged to submit requests for support of Working Groups or Investigative Workshops. The next deadline for requests is March 1, 2010 for NIMBioS support for Working Groups, Investigative Workshops, Postdoctoral Fellows, Sabbaticals, and Short-term Visitors for activities beginning summer/fall 2010.
Technical Focus: Optimal Control
The focus in December has been optimal control. A NIMBioS Investigative Workshop to discuss developing optimal control of agent-based models was held Dec. 1-3. Powerful computer-simulation modeling techniques, agent-based models are used increasingly to understand a broad range of biological phenomena, such as tumor growth, the immune system, and the spread of infectious diseases through a population. A three-day tutorial, Optimal Control and Optimization for Biologists, Dec. 15-17, will include lectures and interactive computer lab sessions and is being led by Suzanne Lenhart, University of Tennessee Professor of Mathematics, and Michael Bevers of the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Forest Service.
Video Feature: An Interview with Alan Hastings
bat University of California-Davis Distinguished Professor Alan Hastings explains how mathematics has enabled scientists to understand new aspects of biology, such as what makes an epidemic go away. Other NIMBioS videos include the BioSongs Project, Modeling the Bear Population, Biology by Numbers, and interviews with the following scientists: Karen Garrett, Sebastian Schreiber, Gail Wolkowicz, Joan Roughgarden and Peter Daszak.
Research Highlights
Fire is often thought of as something that trees should be protected from, but a new study suggests that some trees may themselves contribute to the likelihood of wildfires in order to promote their own abundance at the expense of their competitors. The study, which appears in the December 2009 issue of The American Naturalist, says that positive feedback loops between fire and savanna trees can make fires more likely in these ecosystems.
Although largely eradicated in the United States, the scourge of bovine tuberculosis continues to devastate cattle herds and other animals in parts of the developing world. The disease is also still a threat to public health where it can be transmitted via contact with infected animals and by consuming unpasteurized milk. NIMBioS Post-doctoral fellow Folashade Agusto knows firsthand of the devastation in her home country of Nigeria, where few control measures are in place to help eradicate bovine tuberculosis (TB).
Animals cooperate in a myriad different ways in order to increase their, and their species, chances of survival. How do animals cooperate successfully in the face of the tension between their common or group interests and their conflicting private or individual interests? That is one question postdoctoral fellow Erol Akçay is pursuing as a part of his research at NIMBioS. Akçay is a theoretical biologist who uses evolutionary game theory to model the dynamics of cooperation and conflict in animal social behavior.
Year-End Round-Up: Research Meeting Summaries
batThe following summaries are available from NIMBioS Working Groups and Investigative Workshops that met in 2009:
Coalitions and Alliances Working Group, Meeting 1
Intragenomic Conflict Working Group, Meeting 1
Feral Swine Working Group, Meeting 1
Binary Matrices Working Group, Meeting 1
SPIDER Working Group, Meetings 1 & 2
Function and Evolution Working Group, Meeting 1
Niche Ecology Working Group, Meeting 1
Modeling White Nose Syndrome in Bats Investigative Workshop
Modeling Bovine Tuberculosis Investigative Workshop
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The National Institute for Mathematical and Biological Synthesis (NIMBioS) brings together researchers from around the world to collaborate across disciplinary boundaries to investigate solutions to basic and applied problems in the life sciences. NIMBioS is funded by the National Science Foundation in collaboration with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and the U.S. Department of Agriculture, with additional support from The University of Tennessee, Knoxville.


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