Biomath Undergrads to Present at National Academy of Sciences

MELBOURNE, FLA.— Two Florida Institute of Technology undergraduate biomath students earned the honor of attending the Beyond BIO2010 Celebration and Opportunities Conference to be held May 21-22, at the National Academy of Sciences in Washington, D.C. The invitation was made by the National Institute for Mathematical and Biological Synthesis (NIMBios).

Nationally, only nine undergraduate students from different universities have been selected by NIMBios to present their research at the National Academy of Sciences; two of these are the Florida Tech biomath students.

Melbourne High School graduate and biology major Cristina Mazzone will present her research jointly conducted by her team members Adam Hernandez and Erin Zingarelli. They use mathematical models and computer simulations to better understand the biochemical processes that initiate embryonic development in starfish. The goal is to learn about these processes in a simple organism, like starfish, so that knowledge can be applied to research on human infertility and contraception. The faculty supervisors of this project are David Carroll, biological sciences faculty member, and Semen Koksal, head of the Department of Mathematical Sciences.

Kristie Llera will present a research project on modeling vital parameters that govern coral populations. Studying coral reefs, the most diverse marine systems on Earth, will provide reef managers with benchmarks and tools to increase the chance of coral survival. The students working with Llera on this project are a biology junior, Jessica Gulbranson, a biology graduate student, Lynn Roth, and a mathematics graduate student, Elif Demirci. The project is supervised by Robert van Woesik, biological sciences faculty member, and Koksal.

The conference will celebrate significant progress made by the mutual effort of biologists and mathematicians in the development of new collaborative research initiatives and curricular developments. Biomath is a highly interdisciplinary area that lies at the intersection of significant mathematical problems and fundamental questions in biology. Florida Tech’s Biomath program is in its second year of funding by the National Science Foundation. Each year, six students are selected to work on cutting- edge research projects at the intersection of biology and mathematics.

As a part of Biomath activities, an undergraduate major in Biomath officially started in fall 2009 and is hosted by both departments. Current Biomath faculty that oversee the program are Koksal and Jewgeni Dshalalow from mathematical sciences and Carroll, van Woesik and Richard Sinden from biological sciences. For more information, contact program director Koksal at skoksal@ or call (321) 674-8091.

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