2022 Spring Newsletter

Ruth Bowness (University of Bath), Alys Clark (University of Auckland), Fiona R. Macfarlane (University of St Andrews), and Reginald L. McGee II (College of the Holy Cross).
  1. News – updates from: 
  2. People – Interview with Prof. Matthew Simpson, Professor of Applied Mathematics at Queensland University of Technology (QUT) and the New Editor-in-Chief for the Bulletin of Mathematical Biology.
  3. Editorial – A commentary by Dr. Ruth Bowness titled “Let’s discuss the importance of the SMB subgroups”. 
  4. Featured Figures – Highlighting the research by Dr. Anne Talkington, University of Virginia, and colleagues.

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 August 2022, so if you would like to contribute, please send an email to the editors by the end of July 2022 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, Fiona, Reginald, and Ruth
Editors, SMB Newsletter


News Section

By Dr. Fiona R. Macfarlane

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



SMB President Update

Heiko Enderling will continue to host Presidential Office Hours on the first Tuesday of each month (June 7th, July 5th) at 4pm. The zoom link is



Meeting ID: 990 8577 9843

Passcode: SMB


SMB Subgroups Update

Cardiovascular Modelling subgroup

We are excited to announce the formation of a new SMB Subgroup in Cardiovascular Modelling. This subgroup will provide a dedicated forum for SMB members who study all aspects of the disease and physiology of the heart, vasculature and circulation.

A Google Group has been created that will be used for subgroup communications. Interested SMB members can request to join at: groups.google.com/g/smb_cvm_subgroup. Alternatively, contact Michael Watson (michael.watson1@unsw.edu.au) or Vijay Rajagopal (vijay.rajagopal@unimelb.edu.au) and we will add you directly.

The subgroup are looking to expand the leadership group and are particularly keen to involve early career researchers (postdocs, PhD students). If you are interested to contribute to the subgroup leadership in any way, please reach out to Michael or Vijay.


Cell and Developmental Biology (CDEV) subgroup

The CDEV Subgroup is looking to feature any CDEV-related opportunities and news (recent publications, workshops/conferences, or journal special issues) in their newsletters. SMB members are encouraged to fill out the form here for such a feature: forms.gle/XCs8Tfs6Ws794Xjs6.

The CDEV Subgroup are also continuing interview blog posts (smb-celldevbio.github.io/tags/#interview) as well as junior feature interviews (smb-celldevbio.github.io/tags/#junior%20feature) on their website. Consider nominating (or self-nominating) a junior researcher from your group or network who could benefit from this opportunity by filling out the form here: forms.gle/geosb3WHKNrcauSy8.


Mathematical Epidemiology subgroup

On February 27-28, 2022, the Mathematical Epidemiology subgroup held their second mid-year mini conference in collaboration with the Mathematical Immunology subgroup. The theme was “Epidemiology meets Immunology and Vice Versa – Linking Math Epidemiology to Math Immunology” and more than 200 signed to the Zoom sessions at different times to participate during the global mini conference, which included 30 contributed talks from researchers at various career stages and four keynote addresses. In addition, there were two key highlight activities; one a Debate entitled: “Epidemiology meets Immunology: Pure business, just lunch, or true romance?” that explored topics clustered around the questions: How much do we really know about immunology? Does incorporating multiple scales really bring enhanced understanding of a system? What is the value of data-free and/or data-driven models? The second highlight activity was a session to Honor Prof. Fred Brauer who passed away on October 17, 2021, in Vancouver, BC, Canada. Prof. Brauer was a kind man and a great mentor who made significant and impactful contributions to the field of Mathematical Biology as a whole and Mathematical Epidemiology, in particular, and to the many students mentored by him.

After the 2021 SMB Annual Meeting, Jane Heffernan concluded her term as Chair of the Math-Epi subgroup and Miranda Teboh-Ewungkem, then Vice Chair, assumed the role of chair. Elections were held just before the 2021 SMB meeting and Julie Spencer was victorious, elected as the new Vice-Chair/Secretary. Julie commenced her service as Vice-chair at the conclusion of the 2021 SMB meeting and will take over as Chair after the 2022 SMB Annual meeting. A new campaign and election will be held after July to fill the position of 2022 Vice-Chair.

The Math-Epi subgroup would like to highlight the recent news that the Math-Epi Chair Miranda Teboh-Ewungkem is the recipient of the 2022 Johnson & Johnson WiSTEM2D Scholars’ Award for her project entitled Multiscale Mathematical Model to Understand Malaria. Details on the Johnson WiSTEM2D Scholars’ Award can be found via the website: www.jnj.com/wistem2d-university-scholars.


Methods for Mathematical Modelling subgroup

The SMB subgroup on methods for mathematical modeling is guest editing a special issue in the Bulletin of Mathematical Biology on “Data-driven Methods for Biological Modeling.” More information about the issue and how to submit are available at the following link: link.springer.com/collections/caifbebiec. Submissions are due by November 30, 2022. You may also contact smbmethodsgroup@gmail.com with any questions you may have about the issue.

Texas Tech University is hosting a Research Experiences for Undergraduates (REU) on “Mathematical, Statistical and Computational Methods for Problems in the Life Sciences”. The REU will be held on the campus of Texas Tech from June 6, 2022-July 29, 2022. The application deadline is March 6, 2022. Several projects for undergraduate research are proposed on statistical learning in characterizing protein structure and binding sites, stochastic modeling of heterogeneity in populations and diseases, and deep learning methods in solutions of partial differential equations. More information about the REU, the projects and a link to the application process can be found at the website: www.math.ttu.edu/undergraduate/reu2022/


The DEI Committee is supporting travel awards to the 2022 SMB Annual Meeting!

The Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) Committee is able to provide travel support for SMB members from underserved groups who would like to attend the 2022 Annual Meeting in Heidelberg, Germany. To broaden inclusion and encourage greater exposure, the travel award does not require the applicant to present their research at the meeting.

Eligibility. Applicants must be active and current members of the Society. Preference will be given to junior scientists (students, post-docs, and non-tenured junior faculty) who do not have sufficient travel funds from other sources.

Application. To facilitate the application process, we are using the existing travel grant application with some alterations: 

  1.  Please submit an application here: www.smb.org/landahl-travel-grant-application/
  2. in the Abstract section, input “N/A”
  3. In the Cover Letter / Statement, describe your research, goals for attending the meeting, and a description of how receiving the travel grant would advance the goal of promoting diversity, equity, and inclusion

Contact. Please contact Dr. Stacey Finley, co-chair of the DEI Committee, with any questions: sfinley@usc.edu.


Royal Society Publishing



Royal Society Publishing has recently published Part I of a special double issue of Philosophical Transactions A entitled Mathematical problems in physical fluid dynamics compiled and edited by Charles R. Doering, David Goluskin, Bartosz Protas and Jean-Luc Thiffeault and the articles can be accessed directly at www.bit.ly/TransA-2225 Part II will be published on 9 May and the articles can be accessed after that date at www.bit.ly/TransA-2226.
We are also looking for new theme issues and that if you are interested in submitting, please visit the website royalsocietypublishing.org/rsta/guest-editors or contact the Editorial Office for more information philtransa@royalsociety.org.
The following Royal Society issue has been highly cited, downloaded and is now FREE to access online:
Modelling that shaped the early COVID-19 pandemic response in the UK compiled and edited by Ellen Brooks-Pollock, Leon Danon, Thibaut Jombart and Lorenzo Pellis at royalsocietypublishing.org/toc/rstb/2021/376/1829. COVID-19 is one of the biggest challenges the world has faced in recent times. Infectious disease modelling, or the study of epidemics, was an integral part of the scientific evidence used to guide the COVID-19 response in the UK. This fully Open Access theme issue, published in May 2021, documents work that was presented to the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE) modelling subgroup, known as SPI-M (Scientific Pandemic Influenza Group on Modelling) between January and July 2020, during which the UK experienced a rapid rise in COVID-19 cases and the first national stay-at-home order. This issue provides insight into the knowns, unknowns, and often complex trade-offs involved in understanding and controlling an infectious disease (read the Introduction for a fascinating overview).

Upcoming Conferences and Workshops

ESMTB/SMB2022 19th-23rd September 2022 

The 12th European Conference on Mathematical and Theoretical Biology will take place in Heidelberg, Germany, between 19th-23rd September 2022 and is a joint event organized by the European Society for Mathematical and Theoretical Biology (ESMTB) and the Society for Mathematical Biology (SMB). Registration is now open, with early registration until the 30th June, 2022. Find out more about ESMTB/SMB2022 on the website: ecmtb2022.org/

PhysiCell Hackathon 24th-30th July 2022 

PhysiCell is an open source agent-based framework for simulating cells as they live and interact in dynamical environments. It has been used extensively to study cancer biology, immunology, and other complex multicellular systems. Paul Macklin is running a virtual workshop and hackathon to teach PhysiCell July 24-30. Participants will learn to build agent-based models, integrate intracellular models in each cell agent, and visualize results. Sessions will also introduce a new modeling language to accelerate work. Morning tutorial sessions are available without participation limit, while up to 30 applicants will be accepted for a mentored hackathon. Targeted funding is available to increase diversity, equity, and inclusion. For best consideration, apply by May 31st at www.github.com/PhysiCell-Training/ws2022.


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People Section

By Dr. Alys Clark







Interview with Prof. Matthew (Mat) Simpson, Professor of Applied Mathematics at Queensland University of Technology (QUT) and the new Editor-in-Chief for the Bulletin of Mathematical Biology.




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Editorial Section

By Dr. Ruth Bowness

Let’s discuss the importance of the SMB subgroups

With the formation of a new subgroup in Cardiovascular Modeling, it seemed like a good time to discuss the subgroups within SMB. What can we learn from each other? Should we be thinking more about how our subgroups intersect?

Our president, Heiko Enderling nicely summarises the Society’s vision for the subgroups:

“As the Society for Mathematical Biology continues to grow, the Society’s Subgroups allow members to meet and interact within more focused areas in smaller groups. Subgroups hold scientific symposia and business meetings each year at the Annual Meeting and other activities throughout the year. Membership to the Society’s Subgroups is open to all members. 

Subgroups organize their own scientific programs throughout the year and help organize specific tracks at our annual meetings and review abstracts. I personally see the subgroups as a great way to increase the quality of scientific exchange on a specific biological problem or methods development.”

After speaking to several subgroup leads, Society members agree on successful ways to increase participation and engagement in the subgroups. The Methods and CDEV subgroups in particular advocate hosting a subgroup website to disseminate up-to-date subgroup activities. Blog series that are either written by or feature rotating subgroup members can also be a useful addition to subgroup websites. Social media such as Twitter also helps to boost engagement and helps the subgroups to feel connected. Slack channels too can be a way for discussions or initiatives to move forward.

In addition to holding business meetings at the annual SMB conferences, several subgroups also hold periodic business meetings throughout the year to give members opportunities to participate in planning events and initiatives. Mini-symposia and special issues in the Bulletin of Mathematical Biology or other journals are also cited as great ways to showcase current research in particular fields.

Virtual meetings have been a nice way to encourage international participation. Given our global Society membership, many subgroups plan to continue to take advantage of virtual connections, adding this option to the (long awaited!) return to in-person meetings.

Subgroup leads have all noted that supporting the involvement of junior researchers in the groups is vital, including in leadership roles. In addition to networking with researchers who share similar interests, there are various ways that graduate students and postdocs can gain valuable experience and add value to the groups: minisymposium selection, website management and poster judging for example. A quote from Tracy Stepien from the CDEV subgroup highlights some key advantages for early career reseachers: “I’ve appreciated the subgroup social activities as they have felt more welcoming and less ‘scary’ to gain the courage to attend. Everyone in the subgroup has been very kind and it’s been a great way to network and feel more connected.”

Another theme that has emerged from discussions from subgroup leads has been how best to optimise the interconnectedness of subgroups. There are many subgroups that have an obvious link, such as the Mathematical Epidemiology and the Immunobiology and Infection subgroups. Events such as the recent debate-style event held between these groups entitled “Epidemiology meets Immunology: Pure business, just lunch, or true romance?” was a huge success. Tactical cross-subgroup initiatives such as these may help to solve common problems and perhaps more needs to be done to think about ways that we, as a Society, can maximise links between subgroups. Lead of the Math-Epi subgroup, Miranda Teboh-Ewungkem has drafted a schematic (see Figure 1) to demonstrate ways that that some of the current subgroups are connected and suggests that a collaborative effort across the Society could be employed to improve such an image and corresponding principle regarding future connecting subgroup enterprises. Please contact Mimi (Miranda Teboh-Ewungkem, ewungkems@gmail.com ) if you are interested in working towards this cross-subgroup vision!

Figure 1: Schematic describing connections between subgroups, Miranda Teboh-Ewungkem (Lehigh University)

In conclusion, the SMB subgroups are a valuable and integral part of our Society, facilitating connections and encouraging scientific exchange on specific biological problems or methods developments. There are ways we can learn from each other: various systems and tools to increase engagement, and work to be done to help fruitful cross subgroup collaboration. Hopefully this editorial will inspire new initiatives both within and across SMB subgroups.

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Featured Figures

By Dr. Reginald L. McGee II

Early Career Feature

A recent paper by Dr. Anne Talkington (University of Virginia); Dr. Timothy Wessler, Dr. Samuel Lai, Dr. Yanguang (Carter) Cao, and Dr. M. Gregory Forest (University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill) entitled “Experimental Data and PBPK Modeling Quantify Antibody Interference in PEGylated Drug Carrier Delivery” considers a mechanistic model for the effect of anti-PEG antibodies on the biodistribution of PEGylated therapeutics.  

In this work, they developed and parameterized a physiologically-based pharmacokinetic (PBPK) model system that described the accelerated clearance of PEGylated liposomal drug carriers.  Coating therapeutics in polyethylene glycol (PEG) is a common strategy employed to enhance the half-life and disguise a potentially immunogenic drug; however, many people produce antibodies against the PEG itself (APA).  The APA lead to rapid clearance of PEGylated drugs from the bloodstream and thus lack of efficacy.

The optimized model by Talkington et al. recapitulated the contrast in clearance between treatment-naïve mice and mice with induced APA upon receiving a dose of PEGylated liposomes.  Notably, a parameter sweep revealed that the greatest difference between the two scenarios is due to inflated retention of the drug (Kp) in the liver in APA+ mice, whereas the system is less sensitive to organ tissue permeability (fr).  

PBPK-generated heat map of drug concentration in liver at 1 h post injection versus liver permeability (frli) and liver retention (Kpli) parameter specifications. Ranges of parameters are identified from Latin Hypercube Sampling (LHS) based on experimental measurements for 1 h post PEGylated liposome injection, from representative a naïve and b APA+ mice. All other PBPK model parameters are set at the average of optimal LHS-identified values for each cohort. The black dots are mean values of both liver parameters optimized by LHS based on best-fits to the experimental data over the entire 1-h measurements, whereas the ellipses have semi-axes given by the standard deviations of each LHS-identified parameter for each cohort. Heat map colors and values are normalized so that 1 = 100%ID/g (Color figure online)

To read more about this exciting work, please see the link: link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s11538-021-00950-z



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