2022 Autumn Newsletter

Alys Clark (University of Auckland), Sara Loo (Johns Hopkins University), Fiona R. Macfarlane (University of St Andrews), and Thomas Woolley (Cardiff University).
  1. News – updates from: 
  2. People – Interview with Prof. Paul Macklin recipient of the 2023 John Jungck Prize for Excellence in Education.
  3. Editorial – A commentary on the “New normal vs. the old normal in education”.
  4. Featured Figures – Highlighting the research by early career researcher, Timothy Ostler, Cardiff University, and highlighting the most downloaded paper from the Bulletin of Mathematical Biology, September 2022 Issue.

To see the articles in this issue, click the links at the above items.

Contributing content

Issues of the newsletter are released four times per year in Spring, Summer, Autumn, and Winter. 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 late January 2023, so if you would like to contribute, please send an email to the editors by the start of January 2023 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 editors can be reached at newsletter@smb.org.

We hope you enjoy this issue of the newsletter!

Alys, Sara, Fiona, and Thomas
Editors, SMB Newsletter


News Section

By Sara LooNews image

In this issue of the News section, we highlight the updates from the SMB Subgroups and Royal Society Publishing. Read on below.



SMB Subgroups Update

Cell and Developmental Biology (CDEV) subgroup

The Cell and Developmental Biology subgroup elected new officers this fall:

Immunobiology and Infection Subgroup

We (the Immunobiology and Infection subgroup) have a new Chair (Morgan Craig) and a new Secretary (Daniel Reeves) and we welcome these new officers.

To motivate modelers, we would also like to highlight some truly exciting data from this year in the field of HIV cure. Two studies showed combinations of broadly neutralizing antibodies could suppress HIV for months without antiretroviral treatment (Gaebler et al. 2022 Nature 606, 368-374 and Sneller et al. www.nature.com/articles/s41586-022-04797-9). Meanwhile, combinations with more than 2 bNAbs have been tested for safety in humans (Julg et al. 2022 Nature Medicine 28, 1288-1296), and modeling/optimization of these drugs will be crucial going forward. These exciting breakthroughs leave many open questions for mathematical modellers, and we look forward as a subgroup to helping inform anti-HIV treatments.

We invite members of the Immunobiology and Infection subgroup to send updates about recent papers (either with exciting data or to highlight their own modeling work), upcoming conferences, and funding opportunities to Morgan and Daniel for inclusion in future newsletters.

Royal Society Publishing


Logo of Royal Society Publishing



Could you guest edit a theme issue of Interface Focus

Interface Focus is a Royal Society journal that publishes themed issues covering cross-disciplinary research at the interface between the physical and life sciences, all of which are guest edited by leading researchers in their respective fields. Each issue provides an original and authoritative synthesis, highlighting the latest research, ideas and opinions, creating a foundation for future research. We are currently looking for Guest Editors for future issues.

Find out more: royalsocietypublishing.org/rsfs/for-authors.

People Section

By Fiona MacfarlaneImage for People section






picture of Paul Macklin


Interview with Paul Macklin, Indiana University Bloomington, the recipient of the 2023 John Jungck Prize for Excellence in Education





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Editorial Section

By Alys Clark
Image for Editorial Section

Over the last few years, there has been a lot of discussion (including editorials in this newsletter) that talk about the “new normal”. At the time, this new normal was working from home and fully virtual conferences. More recently we have been beginning to focus on the hybrid with our own SMB Conference in 2022 providing an online option.  As borders open and lockdowns appear to come to an end across most of the world, we are beginning to face conflicts around whether we want to return to the “old normal” (as the world was pre-covid) or not.

Living in a country where international travel to conferences was very difficult until mid-2022, I have recently returned from my first in person conference since early 2020. It was everything I remembered a meeting to be, full of excitement to see all the cool new science, full of discussion for new opportunities and new collaborations, and full of life. But something was different, conversation was peppered with both Covid related discussion (will we get it?, what are the rules in this Country if we do?, are we insured?) but also perhaps more unexpectedly discussion around a higher-than-normal anxiety around coming to an in person conference at all.

We’re also discussing issues around empty offices in our buildings, lecturing to empty theatres. This  was raised in 2021 in some parts of the world, and has held through 2022 in Universities that have restarted (and in some cases mandated) in person lecture courses this year. Some are reporting difficulties in simultaneously accommodating an in person and online audience and perhaps feel like they do better in teaching to one audience than the other.

The challenge to us now is to take the best from our pre-Covid and current ways of teaching, learning and interacting. Online and hybrid opportunities increase diversity in attendees, allowing for better attendance from those that cannot travel easily, those with disabilities, those with caring responsibilities, gender diverse, and neurodiverse people. There is no one-fits-all approach, some flourish in person and others online, and  this is something that we cannot forget when thinking about inclusivity in our teaching and in our interactions.  One thing that we must remember across all forms of events and learning is that we need to ensure we provide a safe environment where everyone has a sense of involvement and an opportunity to contribute fully.

Some further reading:

  1. www.insidehighered.com/advice/2022/03/30/challenges-large-hybrid-lecture-courses-opinion
  2. www.nature.com/articles/d41586-022-01797-7
  3. www.advancedsciencenews.com/hybrid-conferences-a-happy-medium/

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Featured Figures

By Thomas Woolley

Early Career Feature

At the recent ECMTB conference in Heidelberg, PhD student Timothy Ostler was the recipient of one of the SMB poster prizes. The poster can be viewed on the link below:


We asked Timothy to share a bit more about the research and the conference itself:

Since all previous SMB meetings I have attended have been online, ECMTB2022 was my first opportunity to attend in person, and I had a great time! There was so much amazing and interesting work being discussed, and in particular I loved the poster presentation event. Chatting to other mathematicians about their work, and my own, evoked the excitement and passion that brought me to mathematical biology in the first place. It was also an honour to be selected for one of the SMB poster prizes.

My work focuses on using mathematics to improve the success rates of In Vitro Fertilisation (IVF), where human egg cells are fertilised in the lab and transferred to the patients womb to instigate pregnancy. Time-lapse incubators generate live movies of movement of the cytoplasm in eggs, and extracting movement statistics from these movies may allow embryologists to select the best eggs for transfer and maximise the chance of a successful pregnancy.  The image analysis technique we focus on, Differential Dynamic Microscopy (DDM), has been used in a range of biological datasets, but specific features of egg cells and the type of microscopy available to the IVF clinic violate key assumptions in DDM. Hence, my work focuses on identifying these violated assumptions, and if necessary, adapting the existing DDM method to mitigate these problematic features.

If I had to give advice on how to make a great academic poster, I would repeat the words of my supervisors; “less is more”. In a busy poster presentation, passers-by will gravitate towards eye-catching posters that clearly demonstrate what the poster is about, and what the results are. A poster is just a launching point for more detailed discussion, so you don’t need the wall of text!

Most downloaded article in Bulletin of Mathematical Biology, September 2022 Issue

A recent paper authored by Sageanne Senneff and Madeleine M. Lowery (both University College Dublin) has become the most downloaded paper in the Bulletin of Mathematical Biology. The paper is entitled “Computational Model of the Effect of Mitochondrial Dysfunction on Excitation–Contraction Coupling in Skeletal Muscle”.

For the first time in a model of skeletal muscle force generation, the authors integrate excitation-contraction coupling processes with calcium-activated OXPHOS and calcium-stimulated apoptosis. The model is used to explore mechanisms contributing to muscle weakness as a consequence of mitochondrial OXPHOS impairment. Three individual impairments are explored, inhibiting either NADH oxidation, ATP synthesis, or ATP translocation. Altered mitochondrial membrane potential, dysfunctional calcium handling, and reductions in myoplasmic ATP interact in distinct ways to accumulate myoplasmic calcium to pathological levels, ultimately driving muscle fiber cell death. The model can be used as a first step in the computational repertoire for simulating the role of mitochondria in disease pathology in physiological detail within skeletal muscle.


The figure illustrates the integrated model machinery of action potential propagation, calcium handling, OXPHOS, and force generation.  Directional flow of calcium ions to drive ATP and force generation are depicted in response to a single action potential.

To read more about this exciting work, please see the link:


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