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  • 25 Jan 2024 11:04 PM | Anonymous

    Autumn 2023 Newsletter


    Alys Clark (University of Auckland), Sara Loo (Johns Hopkins University), Fiona R. Macfarlane (University of St Andrews), and Thomas Woolley (Cardiff University).

    1. People – Interviews with Dr Adrianne Jenner and Dr Michael Watson.
    2. Editorial – on 'Research that is worth a thousand words: Visualising a conference' on the theme of conference illustration.
    3. Featured Figures – Highlighting the research by early career researcher Chloé Colson and highlighting the most accessed paper from the Bulletin of Mathematical Biology August 2023 issue.

    People

    By Sara Loo


    We interviewed Dr Adrianne Jenner, lecturer at Queensland University of Technology, find out more here.



     

    We interviewed Dr Michael Watson, lecturer in Applied Mathematics at the University of New South Wales in Sydney, Australia and co-chair of the Cardiovascular Modelling subgroup, find out more here.

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    Editorial

    Image for Editorial Section

    By Thomas Wooley

    Research that is worth a thousand words: Visualising a conference

    Conferences, workshops, and study groups serve as critical hubs for innovative discussions and interdisciplinary collaborations. Yet, the traditional format of these gatherings has remained steadfast – talks, slides and projectors. Unfortunately, the insights shared during these talks often prove to be as transient as a fading dream, slipping away quickly, leaving us with fleeting memories.

    Taking notes during lectures can help, and if the speaker is willing, you can supplement them with presentation slides. However, more often than not, we find ourselves returning from these events with notebooks filled with intricate spider diagrams and hastily scribbled ideas that seem more at home on a conspiracy theorist's corkboard.

    The most recent innovation has been recorded talks; you can literally relive the presentation. However, spotty connection issues, poor sound recording and non-existent video editing aside, surely, we must be able to make memory recall more… fun?

    While lectures and presentations will always be the core of these gatherings, there's an untapped approach that could revolutionise the conference experience – conference illustration. Illustrations are not only visually captivating, making even the most mundane topics intriguing, but they also provide tangible outputs that can be used to showcase current and future work, satisfy funding requirements, and elevate audience engagement.

    An illustrated talk by Maria Abou Chakra on the presentation The Climate Game.

    My introduction to this practice occurred during the COVID-19 pandemic when Maria Abou Chakra's remarkable work began circulating on Twitter. I wholeheartedly encourage you to explore her talents in mathematical biology and artistry by following her on Twitter, @MariaAbouChakra, (yes, I refuse to call it X) and visiting her collection of sci-sketches on her website (http://individual.utoronto.ca/abouchakra/sci-sketchnotes/). Her work is both beautiful and highly informative. She truly is a renaissance woman with a foot both in the science and the aesthetic!

    I've had the privilege of presenting for Maria at the "Modelling Cell Development and Regeneration Discussion Group," and I've consistently used her illustrations to convey my work to academic and lay audiences. They're undeniably more appealing than a slew of equations and technical jargon.

    Maria’s illustration of my talk about putting stochasticity, or “noise”, in biological patterning systems.

    • During a recent conversation with Maria, she explained how illustrating talks helped her retain information, focusing on the core concepts rather than minutiae. She generously shared some valuable tips for those aspiring to follow in her footsteps:

    • 1)     Organize your sketch space, decide where elements like titles, conclusions, and key ideas should be placed. Preparation is key, as space can fill up quickly.

    • 2)     Technology is not a prerequisite; a pen, pencil, and paper can be a great starting point.

    • 3)     If you prefer technology, consider using software like Autodesk SketchBook (free) or Procreate.

    • 4)     Familiarize yourself with the features and brushes of your chosen app.

    • 5)     Practice. Skills are honed over time through effort and dedication.

    However, for those without the time, skills, or inclination for such artistry, consider hiring an illustrator for your next conference. It's important to acknowledge that while these artists may not come cheap, their work holds immense value. In an era where AI produces "art", we must not underestimate the genuine skill of condensing and presenting information in a visually curated manner. We should be willing to compensate those with artistic talents, ensuring that such skills don't become lost, or devalued, in the face of automation.

    If you're working with a tight conference budget, I understand that this may not be your top priority. However, if you have some flexibility in your finances, take a moment to explore the pool of talented illustrators available. You may be pleasantly surprised by the options at your disposal. Posting a message on Twitter, or Facebook could yield enthusiastic responses from skilled illustrators.

    In a recent conference on interdisciplinary IVF challenges, https://thefertilitynetwork.wixsite.com/infer,  conducted with my colleague Dr Katerina Kaouri and funded by GW4, https://gw4.ac.uk/, we were fortunate to have some extra funds available. After evaluating our options, we decided to engage a local artist, Eleanor Beer (https://www.eleanorbeer.com/), as our conference illustrator.

    Eleanor readily admitted she wasn't an IVF expert, but this was precisely the point. She focused on capturing the big ideas and overarching themes of the conference, not on mining details for her next research paper.

    Eleanor Beer’s illustration of our recent “Interdisciplinary Challenges in IVF” conference.

    Unsurprisingly, both the delegates and the organizing committee were thrilled with Eleanor's work. She provided us with a piece of art that we eagerly anticipate displaying in our department. It stands as a constant reminder of our funding success and the continuing scientific challenges that need to be addressed.

    As we uncover the potential of incorporating illustrators into conferences, it becomes clear that their contributions have the power to revolutionize how we disseminate and absorb information. Their work transcends language barriers and kindles our scientific creativity. The benefits are substantial, and it is high time to recognize and embrace the visualization of conferences.

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    Featured Figures

    By Fiona Macfarlane

    Early Career Feature - Chloé Colson, University of Oxford, UK

    In this issue, we highlight research from Chloé Colson, a PhD student at the University of Oxford (UK) working with Philip Maini and Helen Byrne. We asked Chloé to tell us a little more about their paper `Investigating the Influence of Growth Arrest Mechanisms on Tumour Responses to Radiotherapy’:


    Cancer is a heterogeneous disease, with tumours of the same type exhibiting large variation at the genotypic and phenotypic levels. These differences can have a significant influence on tumour sensitivity to treatment and, more generally, on patient prognosis. Improving our understanding of the mechanisms underpinning cancer is, therefore, essential for the development of effective patient-specific therapeutic protocols. In this paper, we aim to assess how two distinct mechanisms of growth control may affect tumour responses to radiotherapy (RT), an established cancer treatment used to treat more than 50% of cancer patients.

    In previous work (Colson et al. 2022), we developed a novel ordinary differential equation model of solid tumour growth which distinguishes between growth arrest due to nutrient insufficiency, when cell proliferation and death rates balance, and due to contact inhibition, when the cell proliferation rate converges to zero, with no cell death. While it has been shown that both of these mechanisms can be simultaneously active in vitro in 2D monolayer and 3D spheroid assays (Helmlinger et al. 1997), most models of tumour growth only describe a single growth control mechanism. By considering both nutrient and space limited growth, our model exhibits three distinct regimes: nutrient limited (NL), space limited (SL) and bistable (BS), where both mechanisms of growth arrest coexist.

    In the present work, we extend our tumour growth model to include time-dependent responses to RT and systematically study RT response in the three growth regimes introduced above. We construct three virtual populations of NL, SL and BS tumours, and, for each population, we initially consider tumour responses to a conventional fractionation schedule consisting of 5x2 Gy fractions per week for 8 weeks. We determine average responses and explore how values of key parameters (i.e., the tumour oxygen consumption rates (q1, q3) and the vascular volume) generate extreme (i.e., strongly positive and negative) behaviour. We find that tumour responses to RT are regime-dependent, with tumours in the SL cohort responding positively and tumours in the BS cohort responding poorly. We also identify the biological processes that may explain positive and negative treatment outcomes in each regime. For instance, as shown in the Figure, we find that increased RT efficacy for SL tumours may be due to limited tumour regrowth and/or RT cell kill. Finally, by studying the impact of the total dose and dosing frequency on tumour response, we elucidate how dosing strategies that maximise the reduction in tumour burden vary between regimes; higher doses applied at higher frequency are beneficial for SL tumours, whereas lower doses applied at lower frequency can be more effective for NL and BS tumours.

    Subject to the validation of our findings with experimental data, we believe that our modelling framework has the potential to help guide patient-specific treatment protocol design and, thus, contribute to improving patient prognosis.

    You can find out more about this interesting work here: https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s11538-023-01171-2

    Most accessed article in the Bulletin of Mathematical Biology in August 2023

    The article entitled “Could Mathematics be the Key to Unlocking the Mysteries of Multiple Sclerosis?” was the most accessed article in the August edition of the Bulletin of Mathematical Biology. This article was written by Georgia Weatherley, Robyn P. Araujo, Samantha J. Dando and Adrianne L. Jenner from the Queensland University of Technology.


    In this paper, the authors review the existing mathematical efforts to understand multiple sclerosis (MS), a neuroimmunology disease affecting the brain and spine. The goal with this review was to highlight the opportunities for mathematicians to have major impact on MS, both in terms of diagnosis, prognosis and improving treatment design.

    MS is a neurodegenerative disease where myelin, which surrounds and protects neurons in the brain and spine, is degraded by an overactive immune system. The loss of myelin causes a range of physical and cognitive impairments for which there is currently no cure. Existing mathematical models of MS, while limited in volume in comparison to diseases such as leukemia or malaria, are diverse and insightful. Modelling works range from non-spatial deterministic models (ODEs) to spatially deterministic models (PDEs) and spatially stochastic models (ABMs).

    The authors summarise, to the best of their knowledge, all existing mathematical efforts to capture MS across the four major disease scales: population, systemic, CNS and molecular (cellular). As such, this review serves as a foundation for future modelling works in MS.

    The modelling techniques developed by mathematical oncologists and immunologists are readily translatable to MS and could provide much needed answers to open problems in this complex, profoundly heterogeneous disease. This review is a call to arms for the mathematical biology community, complete with a list of open problems that could benefit from a mathematical approach.    

    You can find out more about this interesting work here: https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s11538-023-01181-0


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  • 25 Jan 2024 11:01 PM | Anonymous

    Autumn 2023 Newsletter


    Alys Clark (University of Auckland), Sara Loo (Johns Hopkins University), Fiona R. Macfarlane (University of St Andrews), and Thomas Woolley (Cardiff University).

    1. News – updates from: 

    To see the articles in this issue, click the links at the above items.

    Contributing Content

    Issues of the newsletter are released four times per year in Spring, Summer, Autumn, and Winter. The newsletter serves the SMB community with news and updates, so please share it with your colleagues and contribute content to future issues.

    If you have any suggestions for content or on how to improve the newsletter, please contact us at any time. We appreciate and welcome feedback and ideas from the community. The editors can be reached at newsletter@smb.org.

    We have an upcoming newsletter editor position available, please get in touch if you would like more information on what is involved.

    We hope you enjoy this issue of the newsletter!

    Alys, Sara, Fiona, and Thomas
    Editors, SMB Newsletter

    News Section

    By Alys Clark

    News image

    SMB Subgroups Update

    Mathematical Epidemiolgy (EPI) and Mathematical Oncology Group (ONCO)

    The Mathematical Epidemiology and Mathematical Oncology subgroups are partnering to host a virtual mini-conference February 18-20 (12-4 p.m. EST/UTC-5). The mini-conference will include three plenary talks, contributed talks, a panel on opportunities at the intersection of mathematical epidemiology and oncology, and more! It will emphasize research advances at the intersection of mathematical oncology and infectious disease modeling. Registration and Abstract Submissions will open in December. For more details, join the MEPI and/or ONCO subgroups or contact MichaelRobert@vt.edu. The organizing committee includes: Jason George (Texas A&M), Meredith Greer (Bates College), Linh Huynh (Dartmouth), Harsh Jain (University of Minnesota-Duluth), and Michael Robert (Virginia Tech). 

    Mathematical Oncology Group (ONCO)

    We are pleased to announce that the ONCO subgroup will be organizing a minisymposium at the upcoming SMB meeting in Korea. This event will showcase the work of promising early-career  researchers who are making exciting and significant contributions to mathematical oncology. 

    Thank you for your continued support, and we look forward to your participation in our upcoming events! Please also consider volunteering to serve as the next co-chair of our subgroup. The ONCO subgroup is co-chaired by Jason George (term ends in 2024), Linh Huynh (term ends in 2025), and Harsh Jain (term ends in 2024).

    Mathematical Neuroscience Group

    The Mathematical Neuroscience subgroup is pleased to introduce its new officers for the 2023-2025 term, as follows:

    Chairperson: Yangyang Wang (Brandeis University, US, yangyangwang@brandeis.edu)

    Vice-Chair: Chitaranjan Mahapatra (Paris Saclay University, France, c.mahapatra97@gmail.com)

    Advisory Members: Hammed Fatoyinbo (Massey University, New Zealand, hammed@aims.edu.gh), Cheng Ly (Virginia Commonwealth University, US, cly@vcu.edu)

    Conferences and Workshops

    Reporting from the Atlantic Association for Research in the Mathematical Sciences and the Emerging Infectious Diseases Modelling (AARMS-EIDM) Summer School (19-31 Aug Newfoundland, Canada)

    Submitted by Francisca Olajide

    The Atlantic Association for Research in the Mathematical Sciences and the Emerging Infectious Diseases Modelling (AARMS-EIDM) Summer School, organized by Dr. Amy Hurford (Memorial University of Newfoundland and Labrador) took place at Bonne Bay Marine Station, in Norris Point on the breath-taking west coast of Newfoundland, Canada between August 19 and August 31, 2023. The summer school gave 39 participants the unique opportunity to enrol in two well-structured graduate-level mathematics courses, ”Mathematical Epidemiology" and “Data, Models, and Decision Support", both taught by seasoned professors, in a highly collaborative learning environment. 



    Commencing the sessions, Dr. Amy Greer (University of Guelph) delivered an enlightening lecture on “Simple Epidemiological Models". As a young enthusiast in infectious disease modelling, I found the teaching explicit enough for anyone aiming to connect the domains of mathematics and epidemiology. In her lecture on “Host Heterogeneity", Dr. Greer highlighted heterogeneity in disease transmission and used the concept of the “WAIFW (Who-Acquires-Infection-From-Whom)" matrix to have participants see how incorporating heterogeneity in models helps to better understand disease dynamics and to estimate quantities such as age-dependent forces of infection.

    During one of her sessions, Dr. Jane Heffernan (York University) presented a seemingly straightforward, yet thought-stimulating question: “Why make models?" Dr. Heffernan connected Fibonacci numbers, animal coats, and fractals to the notion of understanding patterns in the world around us. This connection highlighted an underlying rationale for making models. She further taught on in-host models, multi-pathogen models, and evolution, high-lighting how these kind of models can help us to better understand complexities in disease dynamics.

    Dr. James Watmough (University of New Brunswick) took us further from models to forecasting. Dr. Watmough stated that forecasting is a scientific method; using the logistic growth equation, he demonstrated how to incorporate probabilistic components to quantify uncertainties in process and observation. Furthermore, he underscored the necessity of associating any valuable prediction with an assessment of its accuracy and reliability. In the context of infectious disease modelling, participants gained insight into addressing diverse sources of uncertainty that could arise from modelling disease dynamics, parameter selection, and making predictions.

    Continuing from there, Dr. Amy Hurford delved into characterizing uncertainties. Dr. Hurford demonstrated the techniques for sensitivity analysis and uncertainty analysis, including Latin Hypercube Sampling and Monte Carlo simulations. She also covered the topic of “Decision Support", emphasizing the significant role of modelling in estimating the potential outcomes of decisions through relevant case studies.

    Dr. Julien Arino gave an introduction to “Stochastic epidemiological models", illustrating why stochasticity matters by making a distinction between what the basic reproduction number conveys, in both deterministic and stochastic contexts. Dr. Arino demonstrated how to use the Gillespie algorithm to simulate Continous-time Markov chains (CTMC), a commonly used stochastic system. Additionally, he provided insights into the spatio-temporal spread of diseases, highlighting mobility as a key driver, using case studies of the Black Death and SARS-CoV-1.

    The Summer School also featured talks from guest lecturers. Dr. Bouchra Nasri (One Health Modelling Network for Emerging Infections, Université de Montreal) discussed the vision for building a One Health data portal, based on a data source, documentation, and modelling approach to foster collaboration among researchers, public health agencies, and other relevant stakeholders. Dr. Steve Walker (McMaster University) discussed the Interna- tional Infectious Disease Data Archive, which integrates historical and publicly available incidence, mortality, and population data. Dr. Brenda Wilson (Memorial University of Newfoundland and Labrador) discussed decision-making in healthcare from both clinical and policy perspectives. In her words, “Not making a decision is an action", while stating that it is important to understand how to manage uncertainty and urgency. Dr. Edward Thommes (Sano  Pasteur, University of Guelph) took us through the process of building ensemble forecasts by combining individual forecasts, using a case study of seasonal influenza forecasts in Ontario.

    The course content was extensive, and the instructors also did an excellent job integrating making models, handling uncertainties, and decision-making. They were very comfortable with questions from participants, which made the learning atmosphere even more warm and conducive for further discussions on class materials or research interests. Indeed, the summer school was an intensive 12 days of learning epidemiological concepts, advanced mathematical techniques, statistical methods, and computational skills, needed to holistically tackle infectious disease concerns.

    Participants also had the opportunity to effectively apply tools and techniques learned in the summer school courses to collaboratively work on innovative projects aimed at advancing infectious disease modelling. This is particularly significant due to the diverse academic backgrounds of the participants, enabling them to cross-pollinate ideas, combine interdisciplinary insights, and effectively address infectious disease questions. Ultimately, this experience has better equipped participants with the skills and tools needed for infectious disease modelling to support decision-making in public health.

    On the side, participants had the chance to explore some of the attractions in and around Norris point. While some participants hiked the 7:7 km out-and-back Tablelands trail, others did the 11.7 km Tablelands off-trail loop. The hike was a highlight of the summer school, as it allowed participants to bond and experience the geological diversity of the Tablelands trail. Some of the participants explored the Bonne Bay Marine Station Aquarium while the more adventurous ones went on the Western Brook Pond Tour. “The summer school was definitely a unique and enjoyable experience," remarked Qiuyi Su, a postdoctoral researcher from York University.

    In an interview with CBC Newfoundland Morning, Dr. Amy Hurford stated that the choice of having the summer school at Bonne Bay Marine Station was to bring together and equip the next round of young infectious disease modelling researchers in an environment that allows for connection, collaboration, innovation, and community building. Indeed, from having dinner together to working on group projects and sharing research interests, participants built strong connections among themselves. “The summer school did not only teach us how to build models to solve infectious disease problems, but also how to connect, collaborate, and build relationships", wrote George Adu-Boahen, a Master's student from Memorial University of Newfoundland and Labrador, in his feedback.

    Being a part of the summer school was an unforgettable experience, and we would like to express gratitude to all who made it possible. The summer school was supported by the Atlantic Association for Research in the Math ematical Sciences (AARMS), Mathematics for Public Health, the Canadian Network for Modelling Infectious Diseases, the One Health Modelling Network for Emerging Infections, Memorial University, and the Canadian Centre for Disease Modelling. A big thank you to Dr. Amy Hurford for organizing such an incredible event.

    Further information about the summer school can be found here:

    https://ahurford.github.io/aarms-summer-school/index.html

    Reporting from the Workshop on Mathematical Perspectives on Immunobiology (11-14 Sept, Blagoevgrad, Bulgaria)

    Submitted by Peter Rashkov (IMI-BAS)


    The workshop was organized by the Institute of Mathematics and Informatics (Bulgarian Academy of Sciences) and was hosted by the South-West University’s Conference Centre Bachinovo in Blagoevgrad. The scientific programme included plenary talks, oral presentations, a poster session, and round-table discussion. The forum had a great turnout with 25 on-site and 4 online participants hailing from Algeria, Bulgaria, Cameroon, Canada, Czech Republic, Denmark, France, Germany, Great Britain, Hungary, Israel, Spain, and the United States. Nearly a third of the participants were PhD students or young researchers.

    The plenary talks covered a wide range of scientific topics: overview of recent findings on virus evolution, systems pharmacology for optimized anticancer therapies, neutrophil dynamics in cancers, antiviral treatment for Sars-Cov-2, immunotherapy in cancer, and the role of inhibitory killer-cell immunoglobulin-like receptors in modulating T cell dynamics. This diversity reflects the wide applicability of mathematical models and methods in immunobiology. The round-table discussion focused on current problems in higher education in mathematical biology. Among the points raised were: fragmentation of research between mathematics, biology and computer science, general decline of interest in mathematics among high-school and university students, but also increased awareness of the importance of scientific and mathematical research during the Covid-19 pandemic among policymakers and the general public.

    The Workshop’s organisers acknowledge the generous support from a SMB International Grant that enabled the participation of four PhD students at the workshop, and thank the Conference Centre’s staff for their hospitality. The gentle weather in Blagoevgrad and the pleasant atmosphere of the mountain forest and peaks in the background rounded off the event.

    For more information, access the website: http://www.math.bas.bg/nummeth/workshop2023/

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  • 16 Jan 2024 5:43 PM | Adrianne Jenner (Administrator)

    Chemical Systems with Limit Cycles

    by Radek Erban and Hye-Won Kang

    Read the paper

    Hilbert's 16th problem asks questions about the number of limit cycles that a planar polynomial system of ODEs can have. The solutions of such ODEs are two functions of time, x(t) and y(t), which can be plotted in the x-y plane as shown in the picture for an example which has four stable limit cycles, plotted using the black dashed lines as the four closed curves (periodic solutions). Other solutions of the same ODEs (plotted using different colours) all approach one of the limit cycles.

    This example has been constructed using the approach developed in the paper, where we investigate limit cycles in chemical systems. Chemical systems with N=2 chemical species can be described by planar ODE systems. A lower bound on the maximum number of stable limit cycles in such chemical systems has been proven in the paper. This directly implies a lower bound on Hilbert's number H(n) denoting the maximum number of limit cycles for general planar n-degree polynomial ODE systems. In the paper, we also study more general systems with N>2 chemical species. We construct chemical systems with K stable limit cycles, where K can be arbitrarily large.


    About the authors:

    Radek Erban is a Professor of Mathematics at University of Oxford. Hye-Won Kang is an Associate Professor at University of Maryland. 


  • 02 Jan 2024 7:27 PM | Adrianne Jenner (Administrator)

    Coupling Mountain Pine Beetle and Forest Population Dynamics Predicts Transient Outbreaks that are Likely to Increase in Number with Climate Change

    by Micah Brush and Mark A. Lewis

    Read the paper


    Mountain pine beetle (MPB) have spread well beyond their historical range, with destructive consequences for forests in Canada. We here present and analyze a new model that couples forest growth to MPB population dynamics to address long term questions about the risk of further spread and inform management strategies, particularly under climate change. This model captures key aspects of MPB biology, including a threshold for the number of beetles needed to overcome tree defenses and beetle aggregation that facilitates mass attacks. These mechanisms lead to a demographic Allee effect, which is known to be important in beetle population dynamics. We show that as forest resilience decreases, a fold bifurcation emerges and there is a stable fixed point with a non-zero MPB population. We derive conditions for the existence of this equilibrium. We then simulate biologically relevant scenarios and show that the beetle population approaches this equilibrium with transient boom and bust cycles with period related to the time of forest recovery. As forest resilience decreases, the Allee threshold also decreases. Thus, if host resilience decreases under climate change, for example under increased stress from drought, then the lower Allee threshold makes transient outbreaks more likely to occur in the future.

    Image caption:

    A graphical representation of the model dynamics. Pine beetles infest trees by mass attack, overcoming host defenses. They overwinter under the bark of the tree before emerging and dispersing the following summer. This is connected to a forest growth model where saplings grow everywhere there is available light before becoming susceptible to pine beetle attack. After they are infested, they die. Tree needles turn red the year following infestation, and are lost the following year, clearing room on the forest floor for new growth.



  • 20 Dec 2023 8:09 PM | Adrianne Jenner (Administrator)

    Could mathematics be the key to unlocking the mysteries of multiple sclerosis

    by Georgia Weatherley, Robyn P Araujo, Samantha J Dando & Adrianne L Jenner

    Read the paper

    Our review of the existing mathematical models of multiple sclerosis (MS) is designed to highlight the opportunities for mathematics to unlock the mysteries of this disease. Rising in prevalence, MS is an autoimmune, neurodegenerative disease that results in the demyelination of nerve axons and causes physical and cognitive impairment. Existing mathematics models of MS, while limited in volume in comparison to diseases such as cancer and malaria, are diverse and insightful. They range from non-spatial and spatial deterministic models to agent-based models and other stochastic modelling techniques. So far, these models have successfully furthered our understanding of T cell responses, the underlying oscillatory dynamics of the disease, and potential treatment avenues. For mathematical oncologists and immunologists, MS presents a rich and rewarding opportunity to use transferable modelling techniques to shed light on this complex, profoundly heterogeneous disease. This review is a call to arms for the mathematical biology community, complete with a list of open problems that could benefit from a mathematical approach.

    Georgia Weatherley is a PhD candidate at Queensland University of Technology, supervised by Adrianne Jenner and Robyn Araujo. This review was written and conceived in collaboration with Samantha Dando. All authors contributed to the writing and editing.


  • 13 Dec 2023 8:01 PM | Adrianne Jenner (Administrator)

    Investigating the influence of growth arrest mechanisms on tumour responses to radiotherapy

    by Chole Colson, Philip K Maini & Helen M Byrne

    Read the paper


    In this paper, we investigate how nutrient and space limited mechanisms of growth control impact tumour responses to radiotherapy (RT). By distinguishing three growth regimes: nutrient limited (NL), space limited (SL) and bistable (BS), where both mechanisms of growth arrest are active, our study reveals qualitative differences between the RT responses of tumours in the monostable (i.e., NL and SL) regimes and the BS regime. In particular, NL and SL tumours have largely positive responses to treatment, while RT is deleterious for tumours in the BS regime. We find that the positive and negative responses observed in the monostable and BS regimes, respectively, may be underpinned by different biological mechanisms. Further, the RT dosing strategies that maximise the reduction in tumour burden also vary between regimes; higher doses applied at higher frequencies are beneficial for SL tumours, whereas lower doses applied at lower frequencies can prove more effective for NL and BS tumours. Subject to validating our findings against experimental data, we believe that our modelling framework may help guide patient-specific treatment protocol design and, thus, contribute to improving patient prognosis.

    Chloé Colson is a PhD student, Philip K. Maini is a Professor of Mathematical Biology and director of the Wolfson Centre for Mathematical Biology, and Helen M. Byrne is a Professor of Mathematical Biology.


  • 07 Sep 2023 4:46 PM | Anonymous


    Summer 2023 Newsletter

    Alys Clark (University of Auckland), Sara Loo (Johns Hopkins University), Fiona R. Macfarlane (University of St Andrews), and Thomas Woolley (Cardiff University).

    1. News – updates from: 

    2. People – Interviews with Prof. Ivana Bozic, the 2023 recipient of the Akira Okubo Prize, and Dr Chengyue Wu, recipient of the 2023 H.D. Landahl Mathematical Biophysics Award.

    3. Editorial – We have included an overview of the SMB 2023 meeting in Ohio, from the SMB subgroups.

    4. Featured Figures – Highlighting the research by early career researchers Elijah Counterman and Sean Lawley, and highlighting the most downloaded paper from the Bulletin of Mathematical Biology June 2023 issue.

    To see the articles in this issue, click the links at the above items.

    Contributing Content

    Issues of the newsletter are released four times per year in Spring, Summer, Autumn, and Winter. The newsletter serves the SMB community with news and updates, so please share it with your colleagues and contribute content to future issues.

    If you have any suggestions for content or on how to improve the newsletter, please contact us at any time. We appreciate and welcome feedback and ideas from the community. The editors can be reached at newsletter@smb.org.

    We have an upcoming newsletter editor position available, please get in touch if you would like more information on what is involved.

    We hope you enjoy this issue of the newsletter!

    Alys, Sara, Fiona, and Thomas

    Editors, SMB Newsletter

    News Section

    By Thomas Woolley and Sara Loo

    News image

    SMB Subgroups Update

    Cardiovascular Modeling

    The Cardiovascular Modeling subgroup would like to officially welcome its new advisory committee members Jessica Crawshaw (University of Oxford), Mitchel Colebank (UC Irvine) and Seth Weinberg (Ohio State University). Thanks to Jessica, Mitchel and Seth for helping to organise and coordinate the subgroup activities at SMB 2023!

    Mathematical Epidemiology 

    Michael Robert (Assistant Professor, Virginia Tech) has taken over as chair with new subgroup co-chair Meredith Greer (Professor, Bates College). Michael and Meredith are looking forward to working together this year to continue the momentum built by Lauren over the past year to lead an active and engaged MEPI subgroup.

    Michael Robert is an assistant professor of mathematics and faculty affiliate of the Center for Emerging, Zoonotic, and Arthropod-borne Pathogens (CeZAP) at Virginia Tech. He received his B.S. in mathematics from Mississippi State University and his PhD in Biomathematics at North Carolina State University. His research focuses on developing mathematical models to study the evolutionary, ecological, environmental, and anthropogenic processes underlying the emergence, spread, and control of vector-borne diseases. His current projects include modeling the role of climate in the ongoing emergence of dengue in Central Argentina, studying the relationships between climate and dengue spread throughout the Dominican Republic, investigating the effects of infection-altered bioamine levels on Anopheles mosquito behavior and transmission of malaria, and developing mathematical models to study how inequities may arise in the control of mosquito-borne diseases in economically heterogeneous populations. In addition to his work with the MEPI subgroup, Michael is a current co-chair of the SMB membership committee.

    Meredith Greer is a Professor of Mathematics at Bates College. She has served as chair of the Mathematics Department, of the Natural Sciences and Mathematics Division, and of the Digital and Computational Studies Program (though not all at the same time!). She earned her BA in mathematics from the University of Delaware and her MS and PhD in mathematics from Vanderbilt University, with a PhD thesis focusing on prion proliferation. Since then, her projects have included the spread of H1N1 influenza and mumps on college campuses; conspiracy theory modeling; oscillation in historical smallpox data; effects of Gloeotrichia echinulata on lake eutrophication; dynamics of softball pitching; collaborations between mathematics and other courses (including rhetoric and biology) for student engagement and new understandings; and a course on precalculus-level mathematics topics motivated by scientific applications. Her current project is the development of an Open Educational Resources text on mathematical epidemiology for undergraduates.

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    People

    By Fiona Macfarlane

    Picture of Ivana Bozic


    We interviewed Prof. Ivana Bozic, the 2023 recipient of the Akira Okubo Prize, find out more here.




    Picture of Chengyue Wu


    We interviewed Dr Chengyue Wu, recipient of the 2023 H.D. Landahl Mathematical Biophysics Award, find out more here.



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    Editorial

    Image for Editorial Section

    By Sara Loo and the SMB subgroups

    An overview of the SMB 2023 meeting from the SMB subgroups

    The Society’s subgroups are a key way in which members meet and interact within focused interest groups. Some of these subgroups have been established for many years, while others are just growing. They are hubs to not only bond over shared research interests and the sharing of scientific ideas, but to keep in touch, socialize and develop ongoing friendships and collaboration. Though many subgroups meet throughout the year, post to their own blogs, and send out their own newsletters, it is during the annual meeting that the value of these subgroups really shines through – not just through gathering over pizza or Mexican food, but through organizing minisymposia.

    To highlight these efforts, we reached out to our subgroup committees to hear more about what they got up to during the recent SMB meeting in Ohio. These, and the rest of our SMB subgroups, can be found at the SMB subgroup page – reach out to their committee members to hear more and be added to their list of members.

    Immunology and Infection:

    The IMMU section had a great turnout at the 2023 annual meeting. 7 mini symposia and 3 contributed sessions covered topics ranging from viral and immune system dynamics, agent-based models, model fitting, parameter estimation, eco-evolutionary models, and more. SARS-COV-2 featured heavily this year but presentations on a dazzling diversity of systems included B cells, T cells, transplantation, Tuberculosis, Alzheimer’s Disease, HIV antibiotic resistance, Usutu virus, Equine Infectious Anemia virus, biofilms, CAR-T cells, neutrophils and more. A particular highlight was the special joint session with NIAID which featured fantastic talks and a panel from worldwide experts on modeling, data science, and collaborations between modelers and experimentalists. We hope to include more sessions like this in the future to continue to foster connection and exciting interdisciplinary science/mentorship. A big thank you to everyone who helped judge abstracts and posters!

    Mathematical Neuroscience:

    The SMB Mathematical Neuroscience subgroup was active at the 2023 SMB annual meeting at Ohio State University. In addition to posters and several contributed talk sessions, there were a number of mini-symposia that spanned a range of topics, including: multi-scale networks, ophthalmology, neural oscillations, dynamics, and coding. The research talks were very lively and well-attended, with very good questions and answers. The subgroup was active despite the modest representation, holding a business meeting and a social outing. One of the highlights was a social gathering on Tuesday evening (July 18) at a Mexican Restaurant. About 20 members attended, catching up with old friends and making new ones. With insights from the subgroup business meeting held during the annual meeting, we are in the process of carrying out electronic elections to determine new subgroup officers for the 2023-2025 term.

    Cell and Developmental Biology:

    The Cell and Developmental Biology (CDEV) Subgroup had a great time at the SMB Annual Meeting in Columbus. Our subgroup mini-symposia featured topics including data-driven modeling and topological techniques in cell and developmental biology, polarity and patterns in biochemical dynamics, stochastic effects in cell biology across scales, connections between models of pattern formation and experimental results, the role of the microenvironment in controlling cell phenotype decisions, computational models in developmental and cell biology (honoring the work of Prof. Ching-Shan Chou), and cellular biomechanics and fluid dynamics. We announced upcoming CDEV talks on our Twitter account during the conference through @SMBdevBio.

    We held a CDEV business meeting during the annual meeting (and followed it with pizza at Adriatico’s, across the street from Jennings Hall). We highlighted our ongoing activities during this meeting and got great feedback on what our subgroup members would like to see from CDEV in the coming year. We’ve continued featuring interviews with scientists through our monthly blog—check out https://smb-celldevbio.github.io/blog/ to learn more. Our two most recent interviews highlight Dr. Robyn Shuttleworth from Altos Labs and Dr. Sasha Shirman from Applied BioMath. CDEV also continues to encourage folks to join the biweekly discussion group “Modeling cell development and regeneration” run by Dr. Maria Abou Chakra (more info at: https://smb-celldevbio.github.io/initiatives/). Based on the feedback that we received during the CDEV business meeting, we’re looking forward to planning a mini virtual conference on cell and developmental biology in the future, and we’re brainstorming offering mock interviews to help prepare early-career researchers for postdoc and faculty jobs.

    We are grateful to the volunteers who judged CDEV posters, to the CDEV presenters and minisymposium organizers, to the participants at our CDEV business meeting, and especially to the Ohio State organizing team!

    Cardiovascular Modeling:

    The Cardiovascular Modelling subgroup was excited to host its inaugural mini-symposium at the SMB 2023 Annual Meeting. Consistent with the subgroup’s overall vision, the session “Integrating Mathematics Across the Cardiovascular System: A Mini-Symposium on Multilevel Modelling of Cardiovascular Biology” brought together researchers using a variety of mathematical and computational techniques to study problems across all levels of the cardiovascular system. Highlights of the session (pictured) included talks on multiscale computational modelling of hemodynamics in pulmonary hypertension (Mette Olufsen, North Carolina State University), dual lipid-structured and phenotype-structured modelling of atherosclerotic plaque formation (Keith Chambers, University of Oxford), and two-dimensional modelling of intracellular calcium dynamics in the sinoatrial node (Nicolae Moise, Ohio State University). Thanks to all the speakers for an exceptional session of talks! 



    DEI:

    The SMB DEI Committee hosted a DEI Plenary session on mathematical modeling and the integration of diverse and underserved populations in (pre) clinical research and public health at the SMB Annual Meeting in Columbus, Ohio. Thank you to those who attended the talks by Dr. Maureiq Ojwang and Justin Sheen, and the Q&A panel that followed, consisting of the speakers as well as Dr. Renee Brady-Nicholls.

    The Committee also facilitated a Diversity Lunch during the Annual Meeting. Thank you to the many SMB members who opted to sit at the DEI lunch tables and engage in meaningful conversations! If you did not have a chance to do so during the lunch (or even if you did not attend the meeting), we encourage you to check out the attached poster or slides for information about the DEI Committee's initiatives in the past years.

    The DEI Committee welcomes your feedback, suggestions, and participation at this Google form: https://forms.gle/fMtPCcEQfYxsA17SA.

    Mathematical Oncology:

    MathOnco featured 6 minisymposia with a total of 40 talks and 34 poster presentations. Research projects reflected the exciting work occurring across many topics in mathematical oncology, including evolutionary game theory in cancer progression, dynamics of cellular heterogeneity, and state-of-the-art techniques and methods in modeling cancer treatment. We also thank Renee Brady-Nicholls for serving as a co-chair over the past 2 years, and we welcome Linh Huynh as the new incoming co-chair!

    Mathematical Epidemiology:

    The Mathematical Epidemiology (MEPI) subgroup was well-represented at the 2023 SMB Annual meeting with six distinct mini-symposia across 8 sessions, 4 contributed sessions, and 21 posters. Several of the MEPI mini-symposia were the product of working groups formed during the MPEI-PDEE mini-conference in February 2023 and highlighted work relevant to both subgroups. Across all talks and posters, a greater diversity of diseases when compared to recent years were represented, including malaria, dengue, COVID-19, Lyme disease, West Nile virus, avian influenza, foot-and-mouth disease, and Rift Valley fever. The role of mathematics in studying the important relationships between climate, the environment, and infectious diseases was explored in talks in the mini-symposia “Zoonotic Infectious Disease Models” and “Climate and vector-borne disease: insights from mathematical modeling,” and the importance of scale in epidemiological models was discussed in the eight talks that were part of the “Disease Dynamics Across Scales” mini-symposium. Methods for improving infectious disease models were explored in a set of two mini-symposia, including “Recent advances in parameter identifiability of mathematical models in mathematical biology” and “Integrating Data with Epidemic Models: Challenges and Opportunities.” The MEPI subgroup leadership organized one mini-symposium, “Mathematical Epidemiology: Infectious disease modeling across time, space, and scale,” and this mini-symposium highlighted the diversity of research within the MEPI subgroup as well as the diversity of researchers from numerous underrepresented groups across multiple career stages.

    During the annual meeting, members of the MEPI subgroup gathered at a local brewery in Columbus to enjoy an evening of catching up after multiple years of primarily virtual interactions. This is the first social gathering of the MEPI subgroup since before 2020, and we hope to continue this tradition at all future SMB annual meetings. The MEPI subgroup would like to extend its gratitude to Lauren Childs (Associate Professor, Virginia Tech) who served as chair of the subgroup from September 2022-July 2023. Among the many accomplishments during her tenure, Lauren originated monthly news updates, led the efforts to organize and host the 2023 MEPI-PDEE mini-conference, and organized an excellent MEPI mini-symposium for the SMB 2023 Annual Meeting.

    Thanks to all SMB subgroups for their ongoing commitment to engaging in our community.

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    Featured Figures

    By Alys Clark

    Early Career Feature - Elijah Counterman and Sean Lawley, University of Utah

    In this issue, we feature Lee A Segal prize for best student paper winner Elijah Counterman, who along with Sean Lawley wrote the paper entitled “Designing drug regimens that mitigate nonadherence”. Both are at University of Utah. Here Elijah and Sean tell us more about this exciting research:

    What should you do if you miss a dose of medication? Skip the missed dose and take the next scheduled dose as normal? Take an extra dose to make up for the missed dose? These questions sparked our recent work on stochastic modeling of medication nonadherence.

    Medication adherence refers to the extent to which patients take medications as prescribed by their physicians. Medication nonadherence is an age-old problem, as even Hippocrates warned physicians to “keep watch also on the fault of patients which makes them lie about the taking of things prescribed.” Today in the United States, it is estimated that medication nonadherence accounts for up to 25% of hospitalizations, 50% of treatment failures, and around 125,000 deaths per year. Remarkably, the World Health Organization has claimed that improving adherence may have a far greater impact on public health than any improvement in specific medical treatments.

    There are at least three major hurdles which hinder the study of medication nonadherence. First, clinical trials which force patients to miss doses of the medication being tested could be unethical. Second, nonadherence is by nature erratic, as patients do not miss doses in precise patterns. Third, there are many parameters (adherence rates, drug absorption and elimination rates, dosing intervals, etc.) to vary in any systematic investigation, and it is difficult to disentangle the individual contributions of each of these parameters. For all of these reasons, mathematical modeling and stochastic analysis is an important tool for studying and mitigating nonadherence.

    The aim of our work was to use mathematical modeling to design drug regimens to mitigate deleterious effects of nonadherence. Based on our mathematical results, we proposed principles for drug regimens that are robust to nonadherence. In particular, we (i) showed the benefit of taking a double dose following a missed dose (i.e. an extra “make up dose”) if the drug absorption or elimination rate is slow compared to the dosing interval and (ii) quantified the resilience of extended release drugs to nonadherence.

    Mathematically, our model took the form of the standard single compartment pharmacokinetic model with first order absorption and elimination, except that the drug intake was a stochastic process modeling the erratic missed doses of the patient (see Figure). We then used stochastic analysis to study the resulting random drug level in the body (see Figure). This mathematical analysis required generalizing a class of random variables known as infinite Bernoulli convolutions whose rather exotic probability distributions have been studied in the pure mathematics literature for many years, dating back to Paul Erdos and others in the 1930s.

    You can find out more about this work here: https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s11538-021-00976-3

    Most downloaded article in Bulletin of Mathematical Biology in June 2023

    The article entitled “Forecasting Pathogen Dynamics with Bayesian Model-Averaging: Application to Xylella fastidiosa” was the most downloaded article in the June edition of the Bulletin of Mathematical Biology. This article was written by Candy Abboud, Eric Parent, Olivier Bonnefon and Samuel Soubeyrand (INRAE, France’s National Research Institute for Agriculture, Food and the Environment, Candy Abboud is now with American University of the Middle East, Kuwait). The paper addresses a Bayesian model-averaging approach to the important problem of pathogen dynamics as they enter into new territories – and the problem of predicting future pathogen invasion based on past behaviours informed by past data.


    The study used spatially mapped data acquired over four years showing the presence of the Xylella fastidiosa (Xf) bacterium in Corsica (France), which has the potential to put endemic, patrimonial and ornamental plant populations at risk, as well as certain food growing industries. The data is complemented by maps of winter temperature which would impact the spread of the pathogen, but in an unknown manner. Alongside this unknown are the impacts of the location at which Xf was introduced to the region, and the timing of its introduction. A group of mechanistic candidate partial differential equation (PDE) models was used to describe Xf dynamics in the region, and the paper explored 27 scenarios: three representing the nature of growth and diffusion of Xf (homogeneous diffusion and heterogeneous growth, heterogeneous growth and diffusion, and heterogeneous diffusion and homogeneous growth), alongside 9 temperature thresholds which define a reduction in the capacity for Xf to propagate/reproduce. A Bayesian model-averaging approach was used to predict approximately two years of infection from a training set of the prior two year’s data, using the candidate PDE models. The figure shows the training data, alongside out-of-sample predictions for the testing data, the results of a number of different in-sample predictors calculated from the training data. Overall, the Bayesian model-averaging approach provided the lowest root mean square error against the training data, with a relatively large uncertainty in inference, which certainly better represents the possible variability in the future dynamics of the Xf distribution than the uncertainty generated by the other competing predictors.

    You can read more about this interesting work here: https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s11538-023-01169-w

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  • 31 Mar 2023 3:40 AM | Anonymous

    Alys Clark (University of Auckland), Sara Loo (Johns Hopkins University), Fiona R. Macfarlane (University of St Andrews), and Thomas Woolley (Cardiff University).

    1. News – updates from: 
    2. People – Interview with Prof. Trachette Jackson, recipient of the Leah Edelstein-Keshet Prize.
    3. Editorial – Guest editorial from the SMB DEI committee highlighting the DEI panels from ECMTB 2022.
    4. Featured Figures – Highlighting the research by early career researcher, Sara Hamis (Tampere University) and highlighting the most downloaded paper from the Bulletin of Mathematical Biology in February 2023.

    To see the articles in this issue, click the links at the above items.

    Contributing Content

    Issues of the newsletter are released four times per year in Spring, Summer, Autumn, and Winter. The newsletter serves the SMB community with news and updates, so please share it with your colleagues and contribute content to future issues.

    We welcome your submissions to expand the content of the newsletter.  The next issue will be released in late August, so if you would like to contribute, please send an email to the editors by the start of August 2023 to discuss how your content can be included. This could include summaries of relevant conferences that you have attended, suggestions for interviews, professional development opportunities etc. Please note that job advertisements should be sent to the SMB digest rather than to the newsletter.

    If you have any suggestions on how to improve the newsletter and would like to become more involved and/or contribute, please contact us at any time. We appreciate and welcome feedback and ideas from the community. The editors can be reached at newsletter@smb.org.

    We hope you enjoy this issue of the newsletter!

    Alys, Sara, Fiona, and Thomas
    Editors, SMB Newsletter

    News Section

    By Sara LooNews image

    In this issue of the News section, we highlight the updates from the SMB Subgroups, Royal Society Publishing and the upcoming SMB Conference. Read on below.

    SMB Subgroups Update

    Mathematical Epidemiology Subgroup & Population Dynamics, Ecology and Evolution Subgroup

    The Mathematical Epidemiology (MEPI) subgroup in collaboration with the Population Dynamics, Ecology and Evolution (PDEE) subgroup ran a joint virtual mini-conference in late February. The conference ran from 12-4 pm (EST) across three days to allow more than 200 registered participants from many areas around the world to attend. The schedule featured plenary talks by Folashade Agusto (University of Kansas), Benito Chen-Charpentier (University of Texas, Arlington) and Brandon Ogbunu (Yale University) as well as 18 contributed talks from researchers working on a range of topics in epidemiology, ecology and evolution. In addition to the stimulating talks, the conference featured a panel discussion on funding and research at the interface of Mathematical Epidemiology, Ecology and Evolution with Luis Fernando Chaves (Indiana University, Bloomington) and Zhilan Feng (Purdue University and NSF).

    To round out the conference, participants broke into working groups on a variety of topics, some of which resulted in upcoming mini-symposium at the SMB Annual Meeting. The MEPI subgroup leadership, Lauren Childs (Virginia Tech) and Michael Robert (Virginia Tech) give many thanks to the co-organizers from MEPI and PDEE Christina Cobbold (University of Glasgow), Daniel Cooney (University of Pennsylvania), Gilberto Gonzalez-Parra (New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology), Annalisa Iurio (University of Vienna), Rocio Caja Riveria (University of South Florida) and James Watamough (University of New Brunswick) without which the mini-conference could not have run.
    Conference website: intranet.math.vt.edu/SMBEpiPDEE/

    Immunobiology and Infection Subgroup

    The Immunobiology and Infection subgroup, the Society for Mathematical Biology (SMB), and the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) are organizing a half-day workshop on Bridging multiscale modeling and practical clinical applications in infectious diseases.  The workshop will take place during the 2023 SMB meeting at Ohio State on July 18th from 1pm-5pm EST with a networking event to follow. Registration for the workshop can be done when registering for the Annual Meeting. Information on the schedule and speakers is available on the workshop’s website. Hope to see you there!

    Mathematical Neuroscience Subgroup

    The Mathematical Neuroscience subgroup is in dire need for fresh new people with new ideas to consider running for subgroup officer positions, all of the current officers’ terms are finished in July 2023. For those in the Mathematical Neuroscience community who want to be a part of SMB, we urge you to consider running for a subgroup officer position. Our subgroup in particular has many established organizations / conferences (Society for Neuroscience, Computational Systems Neuroscience (COSYNE), NeurIPS, Organization for Computational Neuroscience (OCNS), SIAM, etc.) that make it challenging to recruit new and effective officers, but there are exciting possibilities to grow MathNeuro within the broader Mathematical Biology community via SMB.

    We currently have 3 to 5 officer positions filled, including: Chair, Vice-Chair, Advisory Committee Members (at least 1 and up to 3). After serving for 4 years, Cheng Ly is looking to step down as chairperson if we can find someone else, and the Vice-Chair (Pam Pyzza) will definitely end her role after July 2023.  The other member (Advisory Committee, Chitaranjan Mahapatra) will also be up for re-election. 

    Royal Society Publishing

    JOURNAL OF THE ROYAL SOCIETY INTERFACE

    The following Royal Society issues have been highly cited, downloaded and are also fully OPEN ACCESS:

    Technical challenges of modelling real-life epidemics and examples of overcoming these compiled and edited by Dr Jasmina Panovska-Griffiths, Dr William Waites, and Professor Graeme J Ackland and the articles are FREELY available online at www.bit.ly/TransA-2233 Read more in a blog post by one of the Guest Editors.

    Modelling that shaped the early COVID-19 pandemic response in the UK

    Compiled and edited by Ellen Brooks-Pollock, Leon Danon, Thibaut Jombart and Lorenzo Pellis and the articles are FREELY available online at www.bit.ly/PTB1829. A print version is also available at the special price of £40.00 per issue from sales@royalsociety.org.

    Royal Society Publishing are also looking for new theme issues and if you are interested in submitting, please visit the website royalsocietypublishing.org/rsta/guest-editors or contact the Editorial Office for more information – philtransa@royalsociety.org.

    Upcoming Conferences and Workshops

    Diversity in Math Bio Summer Seminar Series

    Join the Society for Mathematical Biology and the DEI Committee as we celebrate diversity in mathematical biology this summer! Learn about the breadth of research in math bio and hear from diverse mathematical biologists! Seminars will be via Zoom at 11:00 EDT / 17:00 CEST bi-weekly on Tuesdays. Register to receive the Zoom information:

    tinyurl.com/SMB-Diversity-Summer2023

    Workshop on Mathematical Perspectives on Immunobiology

    September 11-14 in Blagoevgrad, Bulgaria. Topics include mathematical modeling and computational analysis of phenomena and processes in the immune system, host-pathogen interactions, onset, and progress in human diseases. See the webpage for more details: www.math.bas.bg/nummeth/workshop2023/

    Viral dynamics workshop

    July 4-6 in Nagoya Japan. A smaller meeting focused intensely on modeling virus dynamics. See the webpage for more details: iblab.bio.nagoya-u.ac.jp/special/2023/virus

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    People

    By Alys ClarkImage for People section

     

    This issue’s interview is with Professor Trachette Jackson. Full interview here.

    Back to the top

    EditorialImage for Editorial Section

    SMB DEI Panels highlighted unique career paths and inclusive graduate programs at ECMTB 2022

    By Anna Konstorum and Jess Kreger, on behalf of the SMB DEI committee 

    The highly interdisciplinary nature of mathematical biology means that in all stages of a professional career, researchers and educators will be faced with challenges ranging from how to structure equitable graduate programs, to how to build meaningful career paths in the field.  In the spirit of addressing these challenges, the SMB’s Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) committee organized two enriching panel discussions at ECMTB 2022 that allowed panelists to share their personal and professional experiences and advice.

    The first panel, Equity of Paths into Mathematical Biology, was hosted live by Adam MacLean (USC), co-hosted and co-organized by Stacey Finley (USC) and Anna Konstorum (Yale U.), and featured speakers Miranda Lynch (Hauptman-Woodward), Luis Sordo Vieira (U. Florida), and Aurélie Carlier (Maastricht University).  The panelists discussed how their unique backgrounds contributed to their perspectives and experiences in mathematical biology.  With backgrounds ranging from pure math (Sordo Vieira) to biomedical engineering (Carlier) and statistics (Lynch), the panelists provided advice on what sort of resources researchers should seek out regardless of their background, including seeking out mentors and collaborators who can help fill in background that may be missing, taking advantage of professional societies to expand one’s network, and learning how to communicate with non-mathematicians.  There was a strong consensus that it was necessary to build meaningful dialogue and collaborations with biologists, and to work to educate them on what is needed for effective model development.  Sordo Vieira reminded listeners to not self-disqualify themselves from goals that may seem like a pivot from their background.  Good advice for those engaged in interdisciplinary research!

    The second panel, Building inclusive graduate programs in mathematical biology, also hosted live by MacLean and co-hosted and co-organized by Veronica Ciocanel (Duke U), Daniel Cruz (U. Florida), and Jesse Kreger (USC) featured Suzanne Sindi (UC Merced), Alun Lloyd (NCSU), Gibin Powathil (Swansea U), and Padmini Rangamani (UCSD).  Each of the panelists discussed their experiences building inclusive graduate programs where program requirements are focused on student success and students are supported in their coursework/research. There was great discussion on topics ranging from changing archaic program “standards” to graduate student compensation and housing issues. Common themes throughout included 1) while inclusive recruitment strategies have recently been a hot topic for many programs, the focus for program leaders needs to also be on retainment and support for current students, and 2) that recruitment, retainment, and building inclusive programs requires a large amount of both emotional and physical labor – and that the duty to do the hard work falls on all faculty in positions of power. The panel concluded with a critical student-focused question: “What advice to give to a student who is not feeling valued or supported in their program?”, with Sindi encouraging students to “Find. Your. People.” and Rangamani reminding us to “define value for yourself. Value does not come from [your] CV.”

    The SMB DEI committee acknowledges limitations of the panels hosted; there is always more to do. In particular, the panels at ECMTB had a US-centered focus, especially with regards to teaching and PhD mentorship. We hope future discussions will draw in more geographical diversity of our international society. Overall, we have taken away from these panels reminders that may help others, regardless of career stage: reminding us of the importance of collaboration, of networking, and of respect, for ourselves and for those around us. We look forward to continuing the conversation.

    At the SMB 2023 annual meeting, the SMB DEI committee will host a new DEI Session and Panel, as well as a lunch gathering for SMB members interested in learning more about the committee and providing input.  All SMB members are invited to continue and join these important conversations in person. For more details on DEI and all events at the SMB 2023 annual meeting, visit 2023.smb.org/.

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    Featured Figures

    By Fiona Macfarlane

    Early Career Feature

    In this issue, our featured early career researcher is Dr Sara Hamis (Tampere University) who recently published the paper “Spatial cumulant models enable spatially informed treatment strategies and analysis of local interactions in cancer systems”. Sara tells us about her work below:

    My research focus is on quantifying cell-cell interactions in cancer systems and evaluating the role that these interactions play in therapy resistance and disease progression. Going into this study, my goal was to create a mathematical and computational modelling framework to study pairwise cell-cell interactions, and the impact that these have on cell population dynamics. I wanted the framework to generate models that

    • are spatio-temporal,
    • are analytical,
    • maintain cell-discreteness, and
    • are easily generalisable to study a wide range of (cancer) cell systems.

    After some spelunking into theoretical ecology and probability theory literature, I encountered spatial cumulant models (SCMs) which fulfill (a-d). SCMs are differential equation-based population models that are translated from a specific family of individual-based models, namely spatio-temporal point processes (STPPs). Following a mathematical manipulation that involves a perturbation expansion around mean-field equations in the limit of long-ranged interactions, SCMs approximate two STPP-generated summary statistics: first-order spatial cumulants (densities) and second-order spatial cumulants (spatial covariances). SCM densities are formulated as mean-field densities plus a correction term that depends on the spatial covariance.

    I teamed up with theoretical ecologists and biologists, probability theorists, and mathematical, experimental, and clinical cancer experts (Somervuo, Åberg, Tadele, Kesseli, Scott, Nykter, Gerlee, Finkelshtein, Ovaskainen) to study cancer through the lens of SCMs. In our recent paper, we exemplify how SCMs can be used in mathematical oncology by modelling theoretical cancer cell populations comprising both growth factor-producing and non-producing cells that interact with each other (see Figure). Importantly, these interactions are localised in space so that cells that are close together are more likely to interact than cells that are far apart. In the top figure, snapshots of such a population are shown at three different time points (t=0, t=100, t=200). From both MFPM and SCM equations, we derive treatment-induced death rates required to achieve non-growing cell populations. We apply these death rates at the treatment time (here, t=200) and thus implicitly model two different treatment strategies. When testing these treatment strategies in STPP-generated cell populations, our results show that SCM-informed strategies outperform MFPM-informed strategies in terms of inhibiting population growths (Figure, bottom). Each growth curve in the bottom figure represents cell population densities from one simulation.

    To produce these results, we developed an application-agnostic computational pipeline to calculate and compare population-level summary statistics generated by STPPs, SCMs and MFPMs. A gentle and interactive introduction to this pipeline is linked here. As our article challenges the dichotomy between individual-based and analytical cancer models, we argue that SCMs can be used to increase IBMs’ applicability in cancer research. We also anticipate that the opportunity to analytically derive spatially informed cancer treatment strategies, as enabled via SCMs, will inspire new theoretical and experimental research ventures.

    You can find out more about this exciting work here: link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s00285-023-01903-x

    Most downloaded article in Bulletin of Mathematical Biology in February 2023

    The most downloaded article from the Bulletin of Mathematical Biology in February 2023 was authored by Alan Garfinkel, Steve Bennoun, Eric Deeds and Blaire Van Valkenburgh (all from University of California, Los Angeles) and was titled “Teaching Dynamics to Biology Undergraduates: the UCLA Experience”.

     

    Figure: Upper: the change equation is used to set up a vector field, a function from points in State Space to points in Tangent Space. Lower: At representative points in (T, S)-space, we draw the appropriate change vector (T’, S’)*1, where the constant 1 has the units of time

    The paper reports on a new course for Life Sciences freshmen/sophomores, introducing them to mathematics through modeling and dynamics in the context of important applications in biology.  This includes introductions on how to make a model, programming, derivatives and integrals, bifurcations, oscillations, linear algebra and partial derivatives. The key to their approach is to view a differential equation not as an equation, but as a vector field, a function from state space into tangent space. At each point in state space, the vector field gives the change instructions that apply at that point.  This geometric approach embodies 20th century rigor, but it also decouples the idea of math from the approach that math is all about banging on formulas with symbolic techniques to produce other formulas:  the rigorous geometric concept also makes for better pedagogy. The attached Figure from the paper conveys this methodology.

    You can read more about this interesting work here: link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s11538-022-00999-4

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