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Wednesday, September 27, 2023


Math, biology join forces at center

Though they may appear maze-like to visitors, the ubiquitous sky bridges connecting the Texas Medical Center’s numerous buildings symbolize the collaborative efforts of institutions serving as the backbone of Houston researchers’ medical breakthroughs.

With the establishment of the Center for Mathematical Biosciences last spring, the University of Houston will continue to strengthen ties with the Medical Center and play a major role in this research.

"I believe the center will be an incubator for new mathematic and scientific results that will eventually lead to medical breakthroughs," said Jeff Morgan, professor and chairman of the UH Department of Mathematics. "The center will become an†important training ground for the next generation of mathematicians and scientists who will help tackle important problems of interest to the community at large."

The center will provide a realm for the Mathematics Department and the Department of Biology and Biochemistry to conduct research in the city’s most innovative facilities.

Other institutes involved are the Department of Computational and Applied Mathematics at Rice University, the Department of Statistics at Rice University, the University of Texas Health Science Center in Houston, the Baylor College of Medicine, the Texas Heart Institute and the M.D. Anderson Cancer Center.

Center for Mathematical Biosciences Director and UH professor of mathematics Suncica Canic said the center will provide students and researchers from various institutes with the invaluable opportunity to share their research and discuss ongoing projects.

Canic often works with researchers at the Texas Heart Institute at St. Luke’s Episcopal Hospital, for her hemodynamics research projects, where she uses sophisticated mathematical models to improve vascular prosthesis, also known as stents, which would be inserted in arteries to improve blood flow. For aneurysm patients with narrowed arteries, these stents are lifesavers.

"What makes my work interesting is connecting math to real life problems. It feels good to make a difference," Canic said.

Canic, named Cullen Distinguished Professor in May, said the center will also host seminars and colloquiums for the institutes involved.

On June 25 Canic presented an exhibit titled "Mathematics and Cardiology: Partners for the Future" at the 14th annual Coalition for National Science Funding Exhibition on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC, where she showcased her work on improving vascular prostheses to Washington policymakers, including several Congressmen.

From a young age, majoring in mathematics was the logical choice for Canic.

"I liked medicine, but I decided to major in mathematics because I thought that it was the easiest major for me. Math is based on logic and doesn’t need much memorization," she said.

Canic received her bachelor’s degree from the University of Zagreb in Croatia and her PhD from the State University of New York at Stony Brook. She has held teaching positions at Stanford University, SUNY Stony Brook, Iowa State University and the University of Lyons in France.

The center also plans to start a new undergraduate degree in Mathematical Biology. The degree program, pending approval by the UH Board of Regents, is expected to begin in Fall 2009.

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