DIMACS/MBI US - African Initiative: Clinic on Meaningful Modeling of Biological Data

May 11 - 19, 2009
African Institute for Mathematical Sciences (AIMS), Muizenberg, South Africa

Steve Bellan, UC Berkeley, sbellan at berkeley.edu
Wim Delva, Ghent University, Wim.Delva at UGent.be
Jonathan Dushoff, McMaster, dushoff at mcmaster.ca
Avner Friedman, Ohio State University, afriedman at math.ohio-state.edu
Marty Golubitsky, MBI, mg at mbi.osu.edu
John Hargrove, SACEMA, jhargrove at sun.ac.za
Travis Porco, University of California-San Francisco, Travis.Porco at ucsf.edu
Juliet Pulliam, NIH, pulliamjuliet at mail.nih.gov
Fred Roberts, DIMACS, froberts at dimacs.rutgers.edu
Brian Williams, WHO-retired, williamsbg at me.com

Presented under the auspices of the DIMACS/MBI US-African Initiative.

This Clinic is jointly organized with The Mathematical Biosciences Institute at Ohio State University (MBI), the African Institute for Mathematical Sciences (AIMS), and South African Centre for Epidemiological Modelling and Analysis (SACEMA) .

This Clinic is jointly sponsored by:

Applications Requested from Interested Graduate Students, Postdocs and Researchers

In May 11-15, 2009, DIMACS/ MBI/SACEMA/AIMS will hold a Clinic on Meaningful Modeling of Biological Data for researchers interested in developing a better understanding of the relationship between mathematical theory and biological data.

 Location: African Institute for Mathematical Sciences (AIMS), Muizenberg, South Africa

 Dates: May 11 - 15, 2009

 Funding: Participants' travel and local expenses will be covered through funds provided by DIMACS, SACEMA, MBI, and the US National Science Foundation

About the Topic:

Successful model development should never be divorced from data, but sometimes is. Abstract mathematical models, unchallenged by data, do not generally provide the basis required for providing evidence-based advice to policy makers in the fields of biology, epidemiology and medicine. In fact, in some cases they can interfere with understanding and mislead researchers and policy makers. Past institutes and conferences sponsored by DIMACS, in collaboration with AIMS and SACEMA, showcased the burgeoning talent of young researchers with an impressive array of oral and poster presentations that highlighted the application of mathematical models to a variety of medical, epidemiological, and biological problems. However, the models were not adequately tested by being fitted to the data. It became apparent that the next step would be to ensure that such talented mathematicians were engaged in real biological data and questions in a meaningful way. This modeling clinic addresses these problems in an experimental effort that, if successful, will be replicated in the future, both as a self-standing event and in the Advanced Study Institutes funded through the DIMACS/MBI African Initiative.

About the Clinic:

The Center for Discrete Mathematics and Theoretical Computer Science (DIMACS), in collaboration with the Mathematical Biosciences Institute (MBI), the African Institute for Mathematical Sciences, and the South African Centre for Epidemiological Modeling and Analysis (SACEMA), is holding a 5-day biomathematics modeling clinic that will emphasize data analysis. The clinic will bring together United States and African graduate students, post doctorial students, and researchers with the goal of engaging those participants in epidemiological modeling methodologies using real biological data and grappling with practical questions in a meaningful way.

The clinic will consist of a series of discussions and tutorials that will guide participants through the process of epidemiological modeling using one or more data sets followed by the participants applying what they have learned using similar techniques to a handful of data sets. While the organizers will be prepared with their own analyses of the data sets, it is hoped and expected that the process will be open-ended and interactive and that the participants' models will not exactly match the organizers' expectations. Participants will be encouraged to bring their own data sets to the clinic as well as start projects that use their own data sets. Students and researchers with prior exposure to mathematical epidemiology are encouraged to apply. Various modeling paradigms will be discussed. There will be a number of hands-on and computer exercises together with group projects to reinforce and extend the various concepts covered. Participants are expected to either continue the research project they begin during the institute or begin work on a new project when they return to their home institution.

The inter-disciplinary clinic will bring together mathematicians, economists, epidemiologists, biologists, operations researchers, and others to focus on the challenges of applying abstract epidemiological models to real biological data in a practical way.

Special Lecturers:

Criteria for Selection of Participants: The clinic is open to graduate students, postdocs, and researchers from all areas of science (genetics, bioinformatics, computational biology/chemistry, etc.) and the mathematical sciences (Mathematics, Statistics, Operations Research, Computer Science). Participants will be selected based on their applications, experience outlined in their curriculum vitae, and statement of interest and commitment provided by the applicant describing the continuation of the research project begun during the institute as well as a new project begun afterward. Graduate students will be asked to submit a letter of recommendation in addition to the other application materials. Participants selected for the institute will be from the United States and half from Africa, creating an opportunity for establishing early collaborations between junior researchers.

We expect participants to have the following mathematical background:

Experience with computer algebra software would be useful but not required.

About the Location:

The African Institute for Mathematical Sciences (AIMS) is located in Muizenberg, a small seaside suburb of Cape Town and an area of outstanding natural beauty. Lecturers and participants will stay and dine at AIMS, allowing for maximal contact time in an informal and collegiate setting.

Additional Information: See the clinic website http://dimacs.rutgers.edu/Workshops/MMBDClinic/ to:

Send additional questions to email address to come, or telephone at 1-732-445-0075.

This is part of the DIMACS/MBI African Initiative Project.

DIMACS was founded as a National Science Foundation Science and Technology Center and a joint Project of Rutgers, Princeton University, AT&T Labs, Bell Labs, NEC Laboratories America and Telcordia Technologies. Affiliate Members: Avaya Labs, Georgia Institute of Technology, HP Labs, IBM Research, Microsoft Research, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute and Stevens Institute of Technology.

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Document last modified on April 15, 2009.