BIO SIGMAA Newsletter

Fall 2015

MATHFEST 2015 Anderson Award Winners

Gabrielle Van Scoy

Gabrielle Van Scoy, Youngstown State University (Dr. Alicia Prieto Langarica and Dr. Marnie Saunders)

Gabbie grew up in Northeast Ohio and is currently a junior at Youngstown State University pursuing degrees in Applied Mathematics and Biology. She enjoys participating in endurance sports, particularly long distance running and the equestrian sport of three-day eventing, which has made her very interested in sports conditioning and the amazing ways in which the bodies of humans and horses adapt and function. Math has also been Gabbie’s favorite subject in school for as long as she can remember. Being able to combine both math and biology under advisors Dr. Alicia Prieto Langarica of the Mathematics & Statistics department at YSU and Dr. Marnie Saunders of the Biomedical Engineering department at the University of Akron to model bone cell formation was the perfect opportunity for a first research project. Upon graduating from YSU, Gabbie hopes to go on to either graduate school in Mathematics or medical school.

Paul Diaz

Paul Diaz, Colorado School of Mines (Dr. Stephen Pankavich)

Paul was born in El Paso, Texas but moved to Denver when he was seven. He graduated from Colorado School of Mines with a Bachelor's degree in Computational Applied Mathematics & Statistics in Spring of 2015. Part the coursework during his final semester as an undergrad included working with a small group of students under the guidance of Dr. Stephen Pankavich on modeling the spread of Ebola Virus Disease in Western Africa. They were able to construct a modified SEIR model and by utilizing data from the World Health Organization, their analysis allowed them to indicate which of the countries of Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone was most in need of resource allocation at the time. This was his second undergraduate research project he was a part of, in the past, he worked with Greedy Sampling for high-dimensional scientific computing problems under adviser Dr. Mahadevan Ganesh. Paul has spent a semester abroad in the Budapest semesters in mathematics program during the Spring of 2014. Currently, he is working on his Master's degree in Computational and Applied Mathematics. The focus of his research is in the area of Active Subspaces and Sensitivity Analysis under his adviser Dr. Paul Constantine. He is hoping to finish this in one year and will be applying to Applied Mathematics Ph. D. programs during Fall 2015.

Eric Jones

Eric Jones, Colorado School of Mines (Dr. Stephen Pankavich)

After growing up in Fort Collins, Colorado, Eric stayed in state to attend the Colorado School of Mines (and to climb more mountains), where he graduated in 2015 with degrees in Applied Mathematics and Engineering Physics. While enrolled at Mines he enjoyed a variety of research experiences, and especially cherished meeting new collaborators; during this time Eric dabbled in cryptography, mathematical HIV models, and quantum many-body physics. As a capstone to his undergraduate mathematics curriculum, Eric and a team of three others participated on a PIC Math project which strove to slow the spread of Ebola in Western Africa through placement of a treatment center. After modifying a SEIR model to suit the traits of Ebola, the team created a variety of metrics to quantify what an "optimal treatment center location" really meant in the mathematical model, and applied our analysis to the recent outbreak. This project demonstrated to Eric the importance of working on projects with a clear and directly applicable motivation that can help people, and he hopes to work on similar projects as he pursues a doctorate in Physics at the University of California, Santa Barbara, with a specialty in Biophysics.

JMM 2016

Contributed by Brian Walton,
Program Chair

BIO SIGMAA is pleased to be sponsoring an MAA Invited Paper Session title "Current Trends in Mathematical and Computational Biology" at the upcoming 2016 Joint Mathematics Meetings in Seattle, Washington. The session has been organized with an aim of providing attendees exposure to five current research topics in mathematical and computational biology with talks intended to be accessible to nonspecialists. We hope you will join us on the morning of Thursday, January 7. Organizers of the session are Brian Walton (BIO SIGMAA Program Chair) and Maeve McCarthy (BIO SIGMAA Chair).

Please consider submitting to the BIO SIGMAA sponsored Themed Contributed Paper Session at the 2016 Joint Mathematics Meetings in Seattle, Washington.

Trends in Undergraduate Mathematical Biology Education

organized by Timothy Comar,
Benedictine University,
and Daniel Hrozencik,
Chicago State University; Friday morning.

Several recent reports emphasize that aspects of biological research are becoming more quantitative and that life science students, including pre-med students, should be introduced to a greater array of mathematical, statistical, and computational techniques and to the integration of mathematics and biological content at the undergraduate level. Mathematics majors also benefit from coursework at the intersection of mathematics and biology because there are interesting, approachable research problems and mathematics students need to be trained to collaborate with scientists in other disciplines, particularly biology. Topics may include scholarly work addressing the issues related to the design of effective biomathematics course content, courses and curricula, the integration of biology into mathematics courses, student recruitment efforts, the gearing of content toward pre-med students, undergraduate research projects, effective use of technology in biomathematics courses, preparation for graduate work in biomathematics and computational biology or for medical careers, and assessment issues. Sponsored by the SIGMAA on Mathematical and Computational Biology. - See more at:

The abstract submission link is:

The deadline for submission is September 22, 2015.

At Mathfest, The BIO SIGMAA-sponsored Themed Contributed Paper Session on Undergraduate Research Activities in Mathematical and Computational Biology had eight interesting talks on a wide variety of undergraduate research projects in mathematical and computational biology. We are looking forward to your participation in the Joint Mathematics Meeting session described above. Please direct any questions to Tim Comar at

Thank you,
Tim Comar, Organizer