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2020 Invited Speaker – Prof. Vitaly Ganusov
Microbiology & Math, UTK

Biography:  Dr. Ganusov was born in the Soviet Union, studied biophysics for his BS and MS degrees at Krasnoyarsk State University in Siberia, received his PhD from Emory University in Atlanta, and did post-doctoral work at Utrecht University (Netherlands) and at Los Alamos National Laboratory. He works on mathematical modeling of infectious diseases and immunology. At UT his research focuses on how the immune system provides protection against malaria infection, on how Mycobacterium tuberculosis causes the disease, and how T lymphocyte recirculate in the body.

Title: Strengths and weaknesses of mathematical modeling in biology

Abstract: Mathematical modeling has been used in biology for decades. With initial success in population genetics and ecology, mathematical modeling is now a common way to understand processes in other areas of biology including medicine. Some funding agencies such as NSF now sometimes require having mathematical modeling as a part of grant application. While mathematical modeling can provide insights into how specific biological systems work, in essence, a mathematical model is just a set of assumptions about the biological system, and model predictions are the direct consequence of the assumptions. In contrast with physics where assumptions are based on well-supported laws, assumptions in biology are often a matter of debate, and therefore, any given mathematical model is only one representation of reality. In this talk I will illustrate how mathematical modeling can be used to generate insights into biological mechanisms – when combined with rich experimental data – using examples from immunology. I will also illustrate dangers of biased mathematical models generating wrong predictions.

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