Making Sense of Biology with Math

For February 12, 2020 
               Please share this invitation with your friends & neighbors. 
Hi WN@TL Fans,
Besides Mr. Wallick’s Algebra I class, Intro Biology was my first course at Dixon High School that invoked cool ideas from math: Mendel’s ratios, the topology of chiasmata, the Punnett Square with one trait and then with two, to name a few.  
Six years later Jerry Strohm’s Genetics course at UW-Platteville piled on with chi-square, the Hardy-Weinberg equilibrium, the mapping of the order of genes on a chromosome, and the calculation of their distance apart in centimorgans.  
Genetics was elegant and beguiling.  But it was intellectual brandy, and I had a head for beer.
On February 12 we celebrate the 211th anniversary of the birthday of Charles Darwin. This extraordinary explorer, naturalist, theoretician, experimentalist and writer made his world-changing discoveries without much of an appeal to math—like Da Vinci, but unlike Copernicus, Galileo, Newton, or Maxwell.  Luckily for us, others have put the x’s and y’s and sigma’s and chi’s to work in elucidating ways evolution ticks.
This week (February 12) we welcome our special guest, Professor Maria Orive of the University of Kansas.  She is the keynote speaker for UW’s 2020 Darwin Days and will be speaking on “Replicating Viruses and Adapting Clones:  Making Sense of Biology with Math.” 
Here’s how she describes her talk:

“There are two major ways that we can use mathematical models to make sense of biology: as a tool to explain what we do see, and as a framework for predicting what we might see. 

“The first of these allows specific tests of hypotheses, and the second allows us to generate hypotheses. Using examples from viral infection within a human host and from organismal adaptation under environmental change, we consider how building dynamical mathematical models let us describe biological systems that change over time. 

“These models can help us understand why the number of viral particles within the host might decrease initially even without application of a drug therapy, or to predict whether organisms that can reproduce in multiple ways, such as many plants and marine invertebrates, will have an easier or harder time adapting to a sudden environmental change. 

“Using mathematical models allows us to address questions where it is really important to have clear answers or good hypotheses: in studies of disease, and in studies of environmental change and the invasion of new species.”

Extra Good Stuff:  Please arrive early this week (Feb 12) for saccharomycetic refreshments and to chat with evolution researchers about their research. It all starts at 6:00 PM in the atrium, and it’s all part of the festivities for UW Darwin Days. Full schedule of Darwin Days at  
About the Speaker:
Maria Orive received her undergraduate degree at Stanford University, and her Ph.D. from the Department of Integrative Biology at the University of California, Berkeley. 
She spent two years in the lab of Dr. Marjorie Asmussen in the Department of Genetics at the University of Georgia, followed by a year as an NSF NATO Post-Doctoral Fellow at the University of Edinburgh, in the lab of Dr. Nick Barton. 
Dr. Orive came to the University of Kansas in 1997, where she is a Professor in the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology. While at KU, she spent one year as a fellow at the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study, Harvard University. 


Next week (February 19) we welcome Dr. Maureen Muldoon of the Wisconsin Geological & Natural History Survey for her talk entitled, “Why Are Wisconsin’s Karst Aquifers So Susceptible to Groundwater Contamination?

As she writes:  “My talk will focus on the hydrogeology of Wisconsin’s karst aquifers. I’ll go over what karst is, how it forms, and where in Wisconsin we have karst aquifers. Then we’ll look at how groundwater moves in those aquifers, existing water-quality data, and the characteristics that make those aquifers so vulnerable to contamination.”

Hope to see you this week at Wednesday Nite @ The Lab!
Tom Zinnen
Biotechnology Center & Division of Extension


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