Report on the conference:

Theory and Mathematics in Biology and Medicine
Annual Meeting of the SMB and ESMTB

Amsterdam, the Netherlands, June 29-July 3, 1999

By: Ramit Mehr

The Meeting "Theory and Mathematics in Biology and Medicine" was organized by the European Society for Mathematical and Theoretical Biology, the Society for Mathematical Biology and the Netherlands Society for Theoretical Biology. It was held in the Free University in Amsterdam, whose campus is not far from the city center. It was a very large meeting - almost 500 registered participants - enabling the interaction between mathematical biologists from all over the world. In this sense it was good to have a large meeting, even though the number of lectures, talks (in parallel sessions) and poster presentations was rather overwhelming to many of the participants.

The organizers worked hard to make sure everything flowed smoothly, and for the most part, things did. There was quite an effort to entertain the participants: the welcome reception on Tuesday evening where a traditional Dutch/Indonesian "Rice Table" was served, the reception for members of SMB and ESMTB between these societies' respective annual meetings on Wednesday evening, and the conference dinner, which took place in the picturesque fishing village of Volendam, and in which traditional fishermen's fare was served. These events, and the mixing during breaks and poster sessions, gave ample time for socializing.

One more special event was the awarding of the Okubo Prize to Dr. Martin Nowak (as announced in the January 1999 issue of the Newsletter). Dr Nowak gave a fascinating talk on his new area of interest - the Evolution of Language.

In addition to the scientific sessions, there was also a very informative session on Education in Mathematical Biology. Considering the popularity of such sessions - and of sessions on career paths in mathematical biology, such as the one in Toronto last year - I think these should be a regular feature in every SMB meeting.

The annual SMB meeting took place on Wednesday, June 30th. Following the adoption of the agenda and approval of the minutes of the 1998 annual meeting, the change of SMB president took place: the outgoing president, Leon Glass, introduced the new president, Alan Hastings. Updates from the committees (publications, education, and world outreach) followed (reports from committee chairs appeared in the previous two issues of the newsletter). The proposal that the SMB install a mentoring program was accepted, and Gerda de Vries agreed to coordinate this program. The first step will be to develop guidelines for this program.

Next, the financial report was presented, followed by the report on the status of the Bulletin of Mathematical Biology. Several suggestions were made during the discussions of these reports, such as: that members will make an effort to encourage the libraries of their institutions to subscribe to the BMB; that names of members willing to help edit papers submitted to the BMB by non-English speaking authors be solicited; that members who are willing to sponsor a member from a developing country (at a discounted rate) be identified. Hopefully these initiatives will help in increasing the impact, number of subscriptions and volume of submissions to the BMB.

The SMB Board has approved a discounted membership rate for members of other mathematical biology societies, provided a reciprocal discount to SMB members is offered.

Finally, it was agreed that the year 2000 SMB Annual Meeting will take place in Utah on August 3-5, 2000. Stay tuned for the upcoming meeting announcement!