Applications of Mathematics to Biology:

A Conference for Undergraduate Mathematics Majors

Rice University, February 13-15, 2004

The general goal of this conference is to expose undergraduates from many universities to, and stimulate interest in, current research in mathematics.  Several researchers from Rice University will discuss classical and current results and open questions at a level accessible to junior mathematics majors. There will also be some interactive sessions Saturday afternoon. 


Tim Cochran (Rice University-Mathematics)
Steve Cox (Rice University-Computational and Applied Mathematics)
Mark Embree (Rice University-Computational and Applied Mathematics)
Robin Forman (Rice University, Mathematics)
Rudy Guerra (Rice University-Statistics)
Theron Hitchman (Rice University-Mathematics)
Bradford Peercy (Rice University-Computational and Applied Mathematics)
Rachel Vincent (Rice University-Computational and Applied Mathematics)

Conference Schedule

Friday, February 13:

6:30 - 7:30 pm: Complimentary Buffet, HB (Herman Brown Building) 438

8:00 pm (HB 227): Robin Forman, A Mathematician talks about Genetics

    Abstract:  In this talk we give a brief introduction to some of the ways in which mathematics is playing a central role in the investigation of  fundamental questions in genetics.

Saturday, February 14:

9:00 am (HB438) Coffee, donuts, fruit

9:30 am (HB227): Steve Cox:  The Fundamental Equations of Neurodynamics
    Abstract:  Neuroscience is arguably the most quantitative of the life sciences. This is due to an amazing synthesis of theory and experiment developed in four beautiful papers by Hodgkin and Huxley in 1952. We shall follow their path from descriptive biology to electric circuit diagram to partial differential equation to numerical calculation of the travelling wave along which each and every thought is conveyed. Should time remain, we'll survey the 52 intervening years.

11 am (HB227) Rachel Vincent,  An Introduction to Molecular Dynamics Simulation

    Abstract: Molecular dynamics (MD) is a computational technique used to study the interactions of molecular systems as they evolve over time. Newton's second law of motion governs atomic motion in classical MD where force is defined as the negative gradient of a potential energy function. In this talk we will provide an introduction to protein structure, discuss an empirical potential energy function, and provide an overview of computer simulation.

12:00 noon: Lunch with Rice Undergraduates at Jones College

1:30 pm (HB227) Rudy Guerra:  Statistics in Genetics

    Abstract:  Many problems in genetics, ranging from basic science to clinical applications, involve data and their analysis. Statistical methodology thus has a very important role in genetics. In this talk I will give an overview of some current research problems being addressed by statisticians at Rice, including statistical genetics and bioinformatics.

3:00 pm: Two concurrent"lab" activities: 

I. (Duncan Hall 2010)  Steve Cox and Bradford Peercy :  Computational Neuroscience Lab

1. Imaging individual cells in slices of brain,
2. Running a NeuroSimulator,
3. Comparing theory to experiment

II. (Duncan Hall 2011)  Robin Forman and Theron Hitchman:  The mathematician's corner in a fly lab 

           Abstract: We'll discuss mutants (with pictures) and a model of gene expression during early development of dropsophilia melanogaster. 

6:00 pm: Pizza party with Rice graduate students.(2043 McClendon (1 1/2 blocks from Best Western Hotel) 713-6677946)

Sunday, February 15:

9:00 am (HB438): Coffee, donuts, fruit

9:30 am (HB227): Tim CochranKnots and DNA

	Abstract:  A central problem in molecular biology is to understand the mechanisms by wihch enzymes carry out their chemical transformations.  For some enzymes that perform vital reactions on DNA, mathematics, in particular knot theory, provides a useful tool.  We will discuss how knot theory, a branch of topology, can be used to obtain indirectly information about the action of these enzymes.

11:00 am (HB227): Mark Embree, Asymptotics and transients in population modeling

        Abstract:  The population in the developing world continues its robust growth, while nations in Western Europe now shrink. This behavior comes as no surprise to those handy with linear algebra, for such growth and decay can be modeled via a matrix iteration. In this talk we will develop such a matrix model, deduce from spectral theory growth and decay rates, and finally discuss the possibility that transient growth can occur even in decaying populations.

12:00 noon: Lunch (in RiceVillage )

Afternoon: games (frisbee?, soccer?, chess?) 


Most activities will be held in the Herman Brown Building on the Rice University campus. The Herman Brown Building is located near entrance 14, on RiceBoulevard on the north side of campus. Near this entrance there should be adequate visitor parking available. If not, proceed west to the stadium lot.

For a map and further information see "Travel Information" in the Rice Mathematics Department homepage (


Please submit--as soon as possible--the following information by e-mail ( or fax (713-348-5231) or snail-mail (Math. Dept., Rice University, PO Box1892, Houston, TX 77251).

Phone Number:
Class (sophomore, junior, senior, etc.):
Arrival date and time:
Departure date and time:
Do you plan to attend the complimentary buffet on Friday?
Do you plan to attend the Saturday evening party?