In this issue, we highlight the following:
- News – updates from:
- People – Interviews with Dr. Carrie Diaz Eaton, Bates College in the Department of Digital and Computational Studies and recipient of 2021 John Jungck Prize for Excellence in Education, and Dr. Maria Abou Chakra, Donnelly Center for Cellular and Biomolecular Research at the University of Toronto.
- Editorial – A commentary by Dr. Ruth Bowness and Dr. Fiona R Macfarlane on the success of eSMB2020, lessons learnt, and the overall challengenes and benefits of virtual meetings.
To see the articles in this issue, click the links at the above items.
Issues of the newsletter are released four times per year in March, June, September and December. The newsletter serves the SMB community with news and updates, so please share it with your colleagues and contribute content to future issues.
We welcome your submissions to expand the content of the newsletter. The next issue will be released in December 2020, so if you would like to contribute, please send an email to the editors by the end of November 2020 to discuss how your content can be included. This could include summaries of relevant conferences that you have attended, suggestions for interviews, professional development opportunities etc. Please note that job advertisements should be sent to the SMB digest rather than to the newsletter.
If you have any suggestions on how to improve the newsletter and would like to become more involved and/or contribute, please contact us at any time. We appreciate and welcome feedback and ideas from the community. The primary contact editor is Navideh.
We hope you enjoy this issue of the newsletter!
Ruth, Jacob, Reginald, Fiona and Navideh
Editors, SMB Newsletter
By Dr. Navideh Noori
In this issue of the News section, we highlight the updates from SMB Subgroups and Diversity Equity and Inclusion committee, Royal Society Publishing, upcoming conferences, and featuring a paper published in Bulletin of Math Biology, September issue. Read on below.
SMB Subgroups Update
Cell and Developmental Biology
The Cell and Developmental Biology subgroup has a new website: smb-celldevbio.github.io/.
- The first blog post features Maria Abou Chakra’s drawing summaries of talks in Cell and
Developmental Biology subgroup sessions that she attended at SMB 2020
(including the CDEV keynote talk by Adam Martin). The subgroup chairs hope that any SMB members can re-visit these talks through her wonderful illustrations.
- The website also features a Job Postings tab with jobs relevant to the subgroup members.
- The subgroup has put together a Google form where members can send suggestions for plenary speakers and minisymposia topics for the SMB 2021 Annual Meeting: forms.gle/5HkEZiRdAHpsNget5.
In early October, the Education subgroup held a virtual meeting (open to everyone) to discuss teaching challenges in the virtual classroom. This was an informal discussion, with contributors ranging from senior lecturers to TAs. Because of COVID-19, there is almost no institutional memory when it comes to online teaching, so there’s a sense in which we’re all inventing the wheel simultaneously. A major issue that was discussed was the problem of integrity in online exams, with a recommendation that written exams be supplemented or replaced by individual oral exams, especially when class sizes are manageable. The discussion was very fruitful, and we plan to have a followup session early in the new year (Robert Smith?)
The Mathematical Epidemiology subgroup will have a workshop Feb 7-8, 2021. The workshop is in collaboration with the Mathematical Education subgroup. Planning includes research and education talks, panel discussions in mathematical epidemiology and mathematical education, and a mini-workshop ‘how to get a job in Math Epi’. The workshop will be online. Details will be communicated.
The current SMB officers for the Mathematical Neuroscience subgroup (Cheng Ly, Wilten Nicola, Youngmin Park) will step down after June 2021. Election of future officers are tentatively scheduled to be held during our Business meeting at the 2021 Annual SMB meeting– interested members, if elected, will have a great opportunity to help shape the direction of Mathematical Neuroscience in the SMB.
Special Issue “Frontiers in quantitative cancer modeling”
After the tremendous presentations of new and exciting mathematical oncology research at the SMB virtual meeting, the mathematical oncology subgroup co-chairs Mohit Kumar Jolly and Heiko Enderling are editing a Special Issue “Frontiers in quantitative cancer modeling” in the new Wiley Open Access Journal “Computational and Systems Oncology” (Editor-in-Chief: David Dingli).
Recent deluge in high-throughput and/or dynamic data from cancer evolution has underscored how complex, adaptive and dynamic the tumor ecosystem is. The trajectory of tumor progression in an individual patient is a complex function of patient-specific genomic mutations, as well as emergent dynamics of tumor-immune interaction, and spatiotemporal heterogeneity in microenvironmental features such as matrix stiffness, nutrient and oxygen availability, as well as adaptation of cancer cells based on previous therapies given to the patient. These insights have helped elucidate cancer progression, metastasis, and multi-drug resistance mechanisms from the perspective of multi-dimensional mathematical models to better guide clinical decisions.
Mathematical models offer an attractive approach to decode the outcome of various pre-clinical experiments and clinical trials as well as design the next set of crucial experiments to perform. They can help evaluate untested pre-clinical perturbation experiments and clinical protocols in silico to identify new treatment targets, and to help reduce the risk of adverse clinical outcomes due to complex nonlinear feedback mechanisms. Thus, mathematical models developed, calibrated and validated in close collaboration with experimental cancer biologists and clinicians can help predict a patient’s response to different treatments – both in terms of combinatorial/sequential therapies and their dosage and timings on a per-patient basis, which is the promise of “precision medicine”.
The proposed theme of this special issue includes:
- approaches to collect and analyze dynamic data at cellular/tissue/ population level in cancer
- extract meaningful insights from single-cell high-throughput data,
- evolutionary game theory of cancer dynamics,
- mathematical modeling of tumor initiation, progression, and treatment response,
- mechanisms and implications of phenotypic heterogeneity and/or plasticity in cancer progression, and
- the design of effective combinatorial/sequential/adaptive therapies.
We welcome manuscripts incorporating computational/mathematical modeling approaches with a strong connection to experimental and/or clinical data. All articles submitted to this special issue with go through a rigorous peer review coordinated directly by the journal. Articles submitted to Computational and Systems Oncology are published Open Access, and the article processing charge (APC) is waived for submissions before December 31, 2020.
Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Committee Update
By Dr. Stacey Finley
The Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) Committee was formed by the SMB Board of Directors in Summer 2020. The purpose of the DEI Committee is to develop, implement, and oversee initiatives to make sure that our Society supports and promotes all of our members regardless of race, color, sex, sexual orientation or identity, religion, national origin, age, and disability.
I serve as Chair of the DEI Committee, together with co-chair and Board of Directors member, Prof. Elissa Schwartz. Several SMB members eagerly volunteered to be part of the committee, and we are actively working to achieve the goals laid out above. We have identified two primary areas to focus on in our first year:
(1) purposeful recruitment: create new initiatives to expand SMB membership to welcome groups historically underrepresented in mathematical biology.
(2) targeted actions to support underserved groups: celebrate diversity by highlighting and amplifying members and their work.
The DEI Committee has already had an opportunity to further the goal of supporting underserved groups by participating in the #BlackInMathWeek on Twitter from Nov. 8-13, 2020! I took over the SMB Twitter account for the week to highlight the work of our own #BlackInMath SMB members (including DEI Committee members Dr. Renee Brady-Nicholls, Prof. Reginald McGee, Mordecai Opoku, and Dr. Oke Segun). We also provided history about prominent Black mathematical biologists. For example, we highlighted SMB member Professor Trachette Jackson, as well as Dr. Fern Hunt and Professor Emery Brown. See all of the Twitter posts and learn more about our own Black SMB members here!
We plan to highlight our members, as this is just the start of a focused and intentional effort to celebrate diversity and emphasize the important work of SMB members. For example, we will do the same during National Hispanic Heritage Month, Pride Month, and others!
Overall, the DEI Committee is off to an exciting start, and we have a lot of momentum to carry into the new year.
We welcome anyone interested in contributing to DEI initiatives within SMB to join the committee. Please email me for more information: email@example.com.
Royal Society Publishing
- Royal Society Publishing has recently published a special issue of Philosophical Transactions A entitled Uncertainty quantification in cardiac and cardiovascular modelling and simulation compiled and edited by Gary R Mirams, Steven A Niederer and Richard H Clayton and the articles can be accessed at bit.ly/TransA2173 A print version is also available at the special price of £35.00 per issue from firstname.lastname@example.org
- Collaboration in the COVID era
We all know that times are strange right now, and the lives of scientists very different from normal. For those who are missing conference travel, and the opportunity to discuss your work and build collaborations with other research groups, we would like to suggest a replacement project: why not edit a theme issue of Philosophical Transactions A?
Each issue is carefully planned out, so is more like a book than a standard collection of related papers. The broad scope means that you are not restricted in terms of subject area, and you can be inventive with different article types. As Guest Editor, you will have the opportunity to build your network and gain editorial experience, with a high-profile Editorial Board and experienced staff to help you every step of the way. Read about the benefits of Guest Editing an issue and download our flyer. Then, if interested, feel free to contact the Commissioning Editor, Alice Power, with your ideas.
Ninth Annual Conference to Increase Diversity in Mathematical Modeling and Public Health: Hosted by The MIDAS Network Coordination Center in cooperation with the Center for Communicable Disease Dynamics (CCDD) at Harvard T. H. Chan School of Public Health.
This conference is for undergraduate students or students in a post baccalaureate program from underrepresented groups who have an interest in public health and mathematical modeling of infectious diseases. The conference will introduce students to modeling methods and familiarize students with modeling resources of the MIDAS Network.
The application deadline is January 8, 2021. Early applications are strongly encouraged. For more information, please see the this link.
MIDAS Network Virtual Annual Meeting, 2021
The 2021 MIDAS annual meeting will be virtual. The meeting is planned for the week of May 10-14, 2021. Registration and call for abstract submissions are expected to open in January. Visit the MIDAS meeting event page for updates.
Ecology & Evolution of Infectious Diseases (EEID) meeting, 2021
The EEID 2020 was cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but the meeting has been rescheduled to the 11-14 June 2021, Montpellier, France. The final decision about whether the in-person meeting can take place or the event will be in an online format, will be made in early March 2021. Follow the twitter account, @eeid2021 for the updates.
Most Downloaded Paper in Bulletin of Mathematical Biology, September 2020 Issue
A recent paper authored by Dr. Alex Perkins and Dr. Guido España, University of Notre Dame, entitled “Optimal Control of the COVID-19 Pandemic with Non-pharmaceutical Interventions”, has received a lot of attentions and has become the most downloaded paper in Bulletin of Mathematical Biology in September 2020 issue.
In this work, Perkins and España determine optimal strategies for the implementation of non-pharmaceutical interventions to control COVID-19 from May 2020 through December 2021, with a focus on the USA. The analysis shows that non-pharmaceutical interventions need to be prolonged and sustained at a high level until and even after the introduction of vaccine, to avoid a resurgence. If the interventions are reduced excessively in May, a large second wave occurs in summer 2020 that exceeds hospital capacity by more than 20-folds. Authors emphasize the role of constraints on epidemiological parameters in determining the effectiveness of non-pharmaceutical interventions, as well as diverse outcomes of prioritizing the minimization of deaths versus days under control. To read more about this informative exciting work, please see this link.
Interview with Dr. Carrie Diaz Eaton, Associate Professor at Bates College in the Department of Digital and Computational Studies, and recipient of the 2021 John Jungck Prize for Excellence in Education.
Interview with Dr. Maria Abou Chakra, Research Associate in the Donnelly Centre for Cellular and Biomolecular Research at the University of Toronto, and featuring some of her excellent artwork.
By Dr Ruth Bowness & Dr Fiona R Macfarlane
With the increasing need for conferences and meetings to move online this year, in this editorial we celebrate the success of eSMB2020, discuss lessons learnt, and examine how best to integrate virtual elements into our future SMB meetings.
As the COVID-19 pandemic hit this year, conference organisers around the globe adopted virtual formats, with a variety of online platforms utilised with varying success. Of course, many people still prefer in-person conferences for multiple reasons including the social and networking opportunities they provide and the chance to travel to new countries. However, for some traditional in-person conferences present significant obstacles such as difficult visa applications, high costs and taking time away from caring duties. There is also the massive environmental impact of thousands of academics travelling to these conferences. The majority of virtual meetings that have been held this year have seen a stark increase in international participation and benefited from a more diverse group of attendees. Much of the academic community would like to see the continuation of virtual conferences, or virtual elements included in future in-person conferences, beyond the restrictions that we currently face.
One obstacle that many virtual conference organisers have faced this year has been how to effectively integrate a social/networking element as part of the meetings. Our very own SMB annual meeting that was held in August this year was hailed as a great example of finding an effective way to incorporate this important element by using the great collaborative platform Sococo. You can read the article published in September by The Scientist, ‘COVID-19 Ushers in the Future of Conferences’ for more on this review of the eSMB meeting.
Given the positive feedback received following our virtual annual meeting, we took time to interview Dr Heiko Enderling, president-elect of SMB and co-organiser of eSMB2020, to hear about his experience in organising our highest attended conference to date.
- What did you enjoy most about coordinating eSMB2020?
Coordinating eSMB2020 was a great opportunity for me to get actively involved and help the Society to hold their annual meeting. After talking to many of our members, it became clear that holding a virtual annual meeting is a great opportunity for a truly inclusive outreach event. We ran the numbers, and discussed early on the cost for the SMB to offer free-of-charge registration and participation, and what the benefits would be for the SMB and our members. I was excited about the unanimous agreement to make this a free event, and participation exceeded our expectations more than five-fold. We had more than 1800 participants from almost 100 different countries. 60% of our attendees who responded to our post-meeting survey identified that this was the first ever SMB annual meeting they attended. Undergraduate and graduate students made up almost half of all participants. We have received almost 200 detailed responses on what worked during this meeting how to improve for SMB2021 and beyond, which we are excited to share with the organizers.
• What were the hardest parts for you as the organisers?
The hardest parts in organizing this meeting was the overall coordination. We were in contact countless times with the Heidelberg organizers to help transfer previously accepted abstracts. Due to the short time to plan the meeting, we worked with all SMB subgroup leaders to help organize the individual tracks. This was a lot of work for all involved, and we could not have done it without their commitment and leadership. As this became a global event, it was extremely difficult to juggle all timezones and find times that are not too inconvenient for every participant. This is, however, impossible, and thus we had to mostly follow the time zones that our platform technical and support staff were most comfortable with, as we heavily relied on their expertise.
• What tips would you give to anyone organising a similar event?
Take more than 6 weeks to plan :). We have had the great challenge to plan this annual meeting in record time with many moving parts. We have learned from this experience – and the organizing committee, the subgroup leaders, the different SMB committees all have plenty of wisdom to share with organizers of future virtual events. While it is likely to be a lot of work, the personal feedback we have received from so many of our members makes it all more than worthwhile.
Following the success of eSMB, the 2021 Annual Meeting will be held in a hybrid form between June 13-17, 2021, online and at the University of California Riverside, USA. The organisers plan to utilise similar electronic platforms as used for eSMB, allowing for full participation online. Subject to the national health situation, there will also be some aspects of the conference held on UCR campus to allow for in-person participation. Overall, the SMB2021 organising team acknowledge that many are facing challenging personal and/or professional circumstances, and hope that a hybrid meeting will allow the SMB community to stay connected, share research, and support each other. The focus of SMB2021 will be on two important topics in the sciences and mathematics today, Translational Research and the Promotion of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion. More information will be regularly posted on the SMB2021 website (www.smb2021.org).