Research in biomathematics at Florida State University began more than two decades ago with the pioneering work of DeWitt Sumners that uses knot theory to understand knotted DNA. Later, in the 1990s, Mike Mesterton-Gibbons began working in biomathematics, applying game theory to biological conflicts, and has now moved on to study behavior and group structure in complex social networks. In the mid 1990s Jack Quine, who like Sumners is a pure mathematician by training, began to apply geometric and algebraic methods to the study of the molecular structure of membrane-spanning proteins. Quine and Sumners teamed up in 2000 to start the Biomathematics graduate program at FSU. This was followed a year later by an undergraduate Biomathematics program. Although Sumners has since retired (but still pursues a very active research career), the program has grown since 2000. In addition to Quine and Mesterton-Gibbons, other faculty in the group include Richard Bertram (mathematical neuroscience and physiology), Nick Cogan (biofilms and biofluids), Monica Hurdal (brain imaging and mapping), and Washington Mio (brain mapping and computational anatomy). Research performed by the biomath faculty is funded by the National Institutes of Health and the National Science Foundation.
The Biomathematics graduate program at FSU is designed for curricular flexibility and interdisciplinary training. All students take courses in statistics and biology, as well as either pure or applied mathematics. The focus of the coursework is determined by the student's background and interest, and the topic of their dissertation research. Many of our students also interact with faculty in other departments or at other universities. For example, some students have worked with researchers at the National High Magnetic Field Laboratory on research on the atomic structure of proteins, some have worked on brain mapping with researchers of the Laboratory of Neuro Imaging at UCLA, and some have performed biological experiments in labs at FSU and elsewhere. Students participate in one or more seminar each semester. These include the Biomathematics Seminar in which talks are given by graduate students, biomathematics faculty, and faculty from other departments with potential biomath applications. There are also specialized seminars run by biomath faculty members. For example, Hurdal runs a seminar on brain mapping and Bertram runs a journal club that focuses primarily on recent research articles in mathematical neuroscience and mathematical physiology.
There are currently 22 Biomathematics graduate students from countries around the world, such as Lebanon, Ethiopia, China, Canada, Mexico, Korea, and Colombia. There are also biomathematics postdoctoral fellows, working either in the department or in faculty research projects. Current student research projects include spatial pattern formation of cortical folds in the brain, a model of eradication of invasive species through the addition of sex-reversed fish to shift the sex ratio of the population over time, mapping brain atrophy in Alzheimer's disease, shape models for the study of the phenotype of fruit flies, analysis of brain anatomy with methods of spectral geometry, coalition and alliance formation among primates, analysis of bursting electrical oscillations in neurons and pituitary cells, the use of Graphics Processing Units (GPUs) to perform neural network simulations, and models for the production of bird song. Current and prior students have been authors on publications in Journal of Theoretical Biology, Bulletin of Mathematical Biology, the American Journal of Physiology, Journal of Computational Neuroscience, Biophysical Journal, Journal of Magnetic Resonance, Science STKE, Proceedings of the International Conference on Medical Image Computing and Computer Assisted Intervention, and Proceedings of the International Symposium on Biomedical Imaging. Upon graduation, our Biomathematics students have taken postdoctoral positions at the MBI, New York University, LSU Health Sciences Center, the University of Texas at Austin, McGill University, and Georgia Tech.