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Spring 2024 Newsletter

27 Jun 2024 5:05 PM | Publications Team (Administrator)

Spring 2024 Newsletter

Alys Clark (University of Auckland), Sara Loo (Johns Hopkins University), Burcu Gürbüz (Johannes Gutenberg-University Mainz), Thomas Woolley (Cardiff University), and Olivia Chu (Dartmouth College)

  1. News – updates from: 
  2. People – New editor Burcu Gürbüz.
  3. Editorial – on Big Moves during academic careers.
  4. Featured Figure – Highlighting the research by early career researcheVeronica Ciocanel, Duke University.

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.

If you have any suggestions for content or on how to improve the newsletter, please contact us at any time. We appreciate and welcome feedback and ideas from the community. The editors can be reached at

We hope you enjoy this issue of the newsletter!

Alys, Sara, Thomas, Burcu, and Olivia

News Section

By Sara Loo and Olivia Chu

News image

SMB Subgroups Update

Cell and Developmental Biology Subgroup

The SMB Cell and Developmental Biology (CDEV) subgroup held its first virtual mini-conference in March 2024 (picture attached), featuring about 25 speakers and panelists, with participants registering from across 5 continents! Our virtual mini-conference “Cell and Development Festival Week” consisted of 5 sessions across 4 days, each with about two hours of programming. Thank you to all who presented and participated. Our subgroup has also continued to post interviews highlighting scientists in mathematical cell and developmental biology. In our three most recent blog posts, we hear from Evan Curcio, Duncan Martinson, and Hannah Scanlon; see for their interviews, as well as past interviews of other members of the CDEV community.

Immunobiology and Infection Subgroup

As a follow-up to the NIAID/SMB Workshop on Multiscale Modeling of Infectious and Immune-Mediated Diseases held at last summer’s SMB Annual Meeting, the Immunobiology and Infection Subgroup would like to highlight a paper summarizing the event that was recently published in the Bulletin of Mathematical Biology We look forward to organizing similar events/workshops in coordination with other SMB subgroups!

MathOnco Subgroup

Jason George and Harsh Jain’s terms as co-chairs are coming to an end. We are in the process of recruiting 2 co-chairs. Nominations have closed.

The subgroup is also organizing a mini-symposium at the SMB 2024 Annual Meeting in Korea - ‘Emerging Researchers in Mathematical Oncology: The ONCO Group Minisymposium’. This will feature 10 talks by exciting early-career researchers from around the world.

SMB DEI Committee

1. The DEI Committee is pleased to share a recent publication in the Bulletin of Mathematical Biology entitled “Integrating Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion into Preclinical, Clinical, and Public Health Mathematical Models”. The paper is a follow-up from the DEI-focused session and discussion at the 2023 SMB Annual Meeting held in Columbus, Ohio last year. The article presents key issues for the increased integration of DEI in mathematical modelling in biology. Such integration ensures the applicability and relevancy of mathematical models and their predictions to all.

Justin Sheen, Lee Curtin, Stacey Finley, Anna Konstorum, Reginald McGee, and Morgan Craig. “Integrating Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion into Preclinical, Clinical, and Public Health Mathematical Models”. Bull Math Biol 86, 56 (2024).

The 2nd Diversity of Math Bio Summer Virtual Seminar Series starts June 4! This series aims to highlight the diversity of mathematical biology research and the diversity of researchers in the field. The talks will be held on Tuesdays at 8:00 PDT / 11:00 EDT / 17:00 CEST via zoom. See the attached flyer for more details and register at to receive the zoom information. Please join in for an exciting summer of math bio talks!

Dates: June 4, June 18, July 16, July 30, August 30
  • Confirmed Speakers:
    1. June 4: Paola Vera-Licona, University of Connecticut Health Center; Omar Saucedo, Virginia Tech
    2. June 18: Punit Gandhi, Virginia Commonwealth University; Maisha Marzan, North Central College
    3. July 16: Kristina Wicke, New Jersey Institute of Technology; Celeste Vallejo, Simulations Plus
    4. July 30: Van Pham, University of South Florida; Alex Ochoa, Duke University
    5. August 13: Malena Español, Arizona State University
Upcoming Conferences and Workshops

Society for Mathematical Biology Annual Meeting

From 30th June - 5th July Friday 2024, the joint annual meeting of the Korean Society for Mathematical Biology and the Society for Mathematical Biology will be held at KonKuk University, Seoul, Republic of Korea. For more details check the conference website:

Royal Society Publishing

The Royal Society's journal Proceedings of the Royal Society A welcomes submissions of research and review articles in Mathematical Biology. With a broad, international readership and a thorough, constructive review process, authors can be confident that their work published with us will have an impact.

Browse recent content including articles such as Structural identifiability analysis of linear reaction–advection–diffusion processes in mathematical biology on the website at

Proceedings A publishes review articles of interest to a wide range of scientists and the Reviews Editors welcome proposals for new reviews. All review articles are made immediately open access at no cost to the author. See for information on proposing a Review and see some recent review articles at


By Thomas Woolley

We interviewed one of our two new editors Burcu Gürbüz (Johannes Gutenberg-University Mainz). Find out more here.


Image for Editorial Section

By Alys Clark

Big moves

Moving institutions, or moving countries, is often talked about from the perspective of furthering an academic career. There are benefits from learning a new way of working, or from seeking a career pathway that simply isn’t available at your home institution. Across the field of mathematical biology most of us will have come across students and academics who have moved for one reason or another, and throughout an academic career opportunities may arise to further our careers further afield.

We often discuss the academic considerations around these big moves - are we going to be studying or working at a good institution, what is the reputation of our new supervisor or mentor, and are we going to be moving to a research environment where we are going to be intellectually stimulated and supported? It is really important to talk to those that you will be working with or for, and making sure that the culture of the research team and/or department you will be working for suits you and your background. Perhaps less discussed though are the everyday practicalities of such a move and these may be equally important determinants of success at your new home (be it a short or a long term stay).

I recall on my own (second) international move, for a postdoc position, I found myself in the situation of being unable to open a bank account to pay my salary into without proof of address, and being unable to move into an apartment without proof of finances (i.e. a salary). It is really stressful in your first days or weeks in a new country to be navigating these kind of situations (which are ultimately resolvable) so planning where you might live and the administrative steps you will need to take to set yourself up in advance is desirable. Luckily, there will likely be many that have been in the same situation before you, so your new workplace may be able to put you in touch with people who have recently been through the same process. For those who are moving for employment, working out whether you be eligible for retirement plans (or whether they are transferable if you move again) is also a good idea. Making friends takes time, and joining clubs and community groups can help some to establish networks, but time of life and the community to which you move can influence how long it takes to feel at home. We are all now much more used to online communication which can help you to stay connected with old friends and family. But with patience these connections in your new home build too, so it is worthwhile building those connections even if the move is short term.

There are also international contexts to research priorities and funding. Post-PhD access to research funding may be a priority for establishing a career, but in many countries funding is limited to people with citizenship or residence of the country in question. This may be worth checking before you move to avoid any surprises. In mathematical biology, local priorities may also drive research direction. Will you be able to establish good links to experimental scientists, and are there requirements for ethical approval or consultation specific to your new institution that you should be aware of?

Finally, a move between countries, or even between cities is not for everyone and there are multiple reasons that mean we are best to stay just where we are. Luckily, the thought that we must move to ensure success are fading and there are several opportunities to learn new ways of thinking and doing research from our international colleagues via short term stays or online events. This might include learning from experts in your own field of mathematical biology, or even picking up some experimental skills to complement the theory you are developing. Keep an eye on SMB subgroup news for opportunities, or keep a look out for summer schools or workshops associated with conferences you may be attending online or in person.

Featured Figure

By Sara Loo and Olivia Chu

Early Career Feature - Veronica Ciocanel, Duke University

In this issue, we feature a recent article "Parameter Identifiability in PDE Models of Fluorescence Recovery After Photobleaching", by Veronica Ciocanel, Assistant Professor of Mathematics and Biology at Duke University. We asked Veronica to tell us a bit more about her work here:

Identifying unique parameters for mathematical models describing biological data can be challenging. When studying models of macromolecular dynamics inside cells, spatial movement (characterized by diffusion, transport, and binding dynamics) can be significant and has an impact on the parameters that describe a given model. Therefore, partial differential equations (PDEs) that track the dynamics of proteins as a function of time and space are often an appropriate modeling framework. However, PDEs present challenges when trying to understand identifiability, especially since many established in vivo measurements of protein dynamics average out the spatial information.

In this work, we focus on biological data obtained from a commonly-used and versatile experimental technique for probing protein dynamics in living cells: FRAP (fluorescence recovery after photobleaching). In particular, we would like to understand what insights we can gain from FRAP data about binding protein interactions in RNA localization bodies (biomolecular condensates) in oocytes of the frog Xenopus laevis. We find that known methods of (structural and practical) parameter identifiability have certain limitations for FRAP data and for the reaction-diffusion PDEs describing the binding protein dynamics. We therefore propose a pipeline for assessing parameter identifiability and for learning parameter combinations for this model. This method recovers the protein diffusion coefficient in synthetic datasets and predicts and the relationship between binding and unbinding rates in experimental datasets. Ultimately, we would like to use these insights to understand how various protein components interact and bind with RNA in biomolecular condensates.

Figure Caption:

A) Schematic of a stage II Xenopus frog oocyte with RNA granules localizing at the bottom shown in magenta. The black square region is shown magnified on the right, with a cartoon of a FRAP (fluorescence recovery after photobleaching) experimental bleach spot. B) The amount of fluorescence in the bleach spot over time gives rise to the blue experimental FRAP curve (blue). The fit with simulated FRAP data is equally good with two sets of binding/unbinding rate parameters as indicated in panel C). C) Approximation of the likelihood landscape for the non-identifiable parameters.

You can find out more about this research here: 

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