THURS AUG 6 2015: Carlos Castillo-Chavez presents at the MAA100 Lecture Series

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Carlos Castillo-Chavez presents Lecture #4 at the Mathematical Association of America Centennial Lecture Series

Thursday, August 6, 2015
10:30 – 11:20 AM
Marriott Wardman Park, Salon 2/3
Washington, D.C.



The Role and Function of Mathematical Models in Interdisciplinary Mentorship through Research: Lessons from the World of Epidemics

We live in an interconnected world in which seeking solutions to societal problems no longer makes sense within the confines of single-discipline organized institutions. The nation’s ability to train 21st century scientists depends on systems of learning and thinking that are naturally embedded within interdisciplinary educational research/mentorship models. The use of multiple modes of doing science including the systematic use of computer experiments and data science (Big Data) must be at the heart of a modern 21st Century STEM education.

As Steve Strogatz observes “… cancer will not be cured by biologists working alone. Its solution will require a melding of both great discoveries of 1953 [Fermi-Pasta-Ulam introduction of the computer experiment and Watson & Creek discovery of the chemical structure of DNA]. Many cancers, perhaps most of them, involve the derangement of biochemical networks that choreograph the activity of thousands of genes and proteins. As Fermi and his colleagues taught us, a complex system like this can’t be understood merely by cataloging its parts and the rules governing their interactions. The nonlinear logic of cancer will be fathomed only through the collaborative efforts of molecular biologists — the heirs to Dr. Watson and Dr. Crick —and mathematicians who specialize in complex systems — the heirs to Fermi, Pasta and Ulam.”

In this lecture, I will highlight (1) the role that interdisciplinary research challenges has played in shaping the training and mentorship of students from high school to the postdoctoral level and (2) the impact that has had on my own research program. The discussion will be centered on questions that arise in the study of disease dynamics (Ebola and Influenza) across levels of organization and over multiple spatiotemporal scales.

The examples used are the result of the research carried out with a myriad of collaborators (undergraduate, graduate, postdoctoral students and colleagues) over the past three decades.