Story posted November 19, 2007
Mary Lou Zeeman, recently appointed Bowdoin's R. Wells Johnson Professor of Mathematics, will discuss her research in a talk titled "Mathematical Modeling in Biology: What Is It? And How Is It Useful?" at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, November 28, 2007, in Moulton Union, Lancaster Lounge. The lecture commemorates her appointment to the Johnson Professorship.
In the talk, Zeeman will describe some of the ways in which math can be harnessed to dive into biological mysteries.
"For example," she says, "what happens when three species compete for the same resources? Why do diseases come in cycles? And how is ovulation triggered?"
Prof. Zeeman joined the Bowdoin faculty in 2006. Her current research interweaves biological experiment with mathematical modeling, and she collaborates closely with students and faculty from both disciplines to strengthen interdisciplinary connections between the two curricula.
This semester she is offering a new introductory biomathematics course, in which biological questions about population growth, species interactions, disease epidemics, genetics, blood glucose levels and hormone pulsatility drive the study of mathematical methods including discrete and continuous models of change over time, equilibrium and oscillatory solutions, and methods for analyzing stability.
"This work is really accessible to undergraduates," Zeeman has said. "Because the field is so new, there are plenty of experiments to do that translate between the biology and the math. I am hoping to interest both biology and math majors and get them working together." Read the feature story "Zeeman on the Cutting Edge of Biomathematical Research."
Zeeman is also involved in several initiatives to help each of us focus on the needs of the planet. At Cornell, she helped to develop and launch a highly interdisciplinary course called The State of the Planet with the theme, Whatever your talent, whatever your passion, you can use them to help the planet.
Support for endowed professorships is an important goal of The Bowdoin Campaign, which ends in 2009. These prestigious positions recognize outstanding faculty contributions to their disciplines, and provide additional support for research.
At this year's joint meeting of the three major American mathematical societies, she is helping to organize minisymposia in which mathematicians, climate scientists, economists and policy makers come together to discuss a development path for integrated models of climate change and economics. She is jointly organizing a summer school on mathematical challenges in climate modeling for junior researchers, and she was recently elected chair of the Society for Industrial and Applied Mathematics (SIAM) Activity Group on Dynamical Systems.
Mary Lou Zeeman was born in the United States and raised in the United Kingdom. After completing her undergraduate degree at Oxford University in 1984, she returned to the U.S. for doctoral studies at the University of California–Berkeley.
She came to Bowdoin from the University of Texas–San Antonio, where she was Professor of Mathematics and Biology.
She currently divides her time between the Department of Mathematics at Bowdoin and the Department of Neurobiology and Behavior at Cornell University, where she holds a visiting professorship.
Zeeman's Bowdoin talk is open to the public and admission is free. For more information call 725-3257.
The R. Wells Johnson Professorship of Mathematics was established in 2007 in support of compensation, research, teaching expenses and sabbaticals for a faculty member in the Department of Mathematics. The professorship honors R. Wells Johnson, Isaac Henry Wing Professor of Mathematics Emeritus, who was appointed to the Bowdoin faculty in 1964 and retired in 2005.