Mentoring students is a tradition within the University of Iowa mathematics program. The department currently has an NSF VIGRE award and has recently won the national Presidential Award for Excellence in Science, Mathematics, and Engineering Mentoring and the American Mathematical Society Exemplary Program award for 2008. Additionally, our graduate program was one of two nationally receiving the American Mathematical Society award-Programs that Make a Difference. Our Alliance, GAANN, and VIGRE programs allow us to recruit a diverse group of highly talented mathematics students.
Most mathematical biology students apply to our Applied Mathematics and Computational Sciences (AMCS) program. A student in the AMCS program may choose to have an adviser in the mathematics department and/or an adviser from a different department such as biology or the medical school. In their first year, most math-bio students take three qualifying exam courses such as Analysis, Topology, Differential Equations, and Numerical Analysis. The following summer, students study for their qualifying exams with the help of other graduate students. This includes a few advanced graduate students who have already passed the qualifying exams and have been assigned as teaching assistants to help the new graduate students. In the second year, students will take additional courses while exploring research areas and choosing an adviser(s) in their second or beginning of their third year. AMCS students also normally take courses outside of the mathematics department in their area of application.
We have several faculty who work in the area of mathematical biology, many of whom collaborate with faculty in the UI medical school and other departments outside of mathematics. Bruce Ayati applies numerical mathematics and computational science to understand multicellular systems such as biofilm and tumors. Rodica Curtu applies methods from nonlinear dynamical systems, pattern formation and bifurcation theory to study how the dynamics of neuronal networks contributes to neural information processing. Her current projects include computational models of learning and memory formation, models of buffered calcium diffusion near multiple sources and modeling of the unfolded protein response to ER stress. She has collaborators from the Psychology department and Anatomy and Cell Biology department, and she is an affiliate member of the Delta Center (Developing and Learning from Theory to Application; www.uiowa.edu/delta-center/). Isabel Darcy works on applications of knot theory to biology. She studies the shape of DNA bound by protein. For more information on her research, check out the cover article of the June 2008 issue 11 of Nucleic Acids Research (http://nar.oxfordjournals.org/content/vol36/issue11/cover.dtl). Tong Li's research area is nonlinear parabolic and hyperbolic partial differential equations and their applications. Her research interests span the areas of shock wave theory, combustion theory, mathematical modeling of traffic flow, mathematical biology and numerical analysis. Yi Li's research interests are in partial differential equations, and their applications in medical imaging, epidemiology, and cell motility. He is also the chair of the mathematics department. Colleen Mitchell works on applications of analysis, probability and dynamical systems to physiology. Her current projects include cardiac electrophysiology, timing in the auditory brainstem, language acquisition in children and stochastic modeling of synaptic vesicles. She has collaborators from the departments of Biology, Psychology, Cellular Physiology and Biophysics, and Internal Medicine and is an affiliate member of the Delta Center. Keith Stroyan is working on visual depth perception with Mark Nawrot at North Dakota State University. They have shown mathematically that the ratio of retinal motion over smooth eye pursuit determines relative depth and have done psychophysical experiments that suggest that people use this ratio to perceive depth.
Our math-bio group has a weekly seminar and a weekly lunch group. In the seminar, students and professors (from mathematics and other departments) present their research or a paper of interest. In Fall 2006, Colleen Mitchell started the Mathematical Biology Journal Club Lunch in order to provide mentoring to graduate and undergraduate students interested in mathematical biology. This lunch seminar has been an excellent way to introduce students to mathematical biology and for undergraduates, beginning and advanced graduate students, and faculty to interact. Math-Bio Lunch now regularly has 10-20 participants each week (see picture). The following are a few quotes from our graduate students about our program:
Jeannine Abiva: "I really enjoy being part of the math biology program. It offers many opportunities to be exposed to different topics in math biology through weekly readings for Math Bio Lunches and talks at seminars. It also provides a source of great mentorship through faculty and fellow students. It's a great program."
Candice Price: "I really like the Math Bio program here at Iowa. It feels more like a family than anything. We really support each other, especially during our Math Bio lunches where we present papers to one another."
Kamuela (Wela) Yong: "The UI MathBio group has given me experience in reading papers and giving presentations. They have exposed me to the math bio world. As a result of this group, I am applying to a math bio research program this summer."
For further information, please check the following web pages: