Math Undergraduates Visit IUPUI for Mathematical Biosciences Institute Research

Release Date: 
Aug 10 2012

Mathematical Biosciences Institute

Three undergraduate mathematics students from programs across the country recently completed an eight-week research project with the School of Science at IUPUI as part of an interdisciplinary research program coordinated by the Mathematical Biosciences Institute (MBI) in Columbus, Ohio. 

IUPUI was one of six institutions to host students in the program and provide faculty mentors to help guide their research efforts. MBI is funded and supported by the National Science Foundation. 

“I really enjoyed my experience, and I learned a lot,” said Jessica Solfest, a math major from the College of St. Benedict and St. John’s University in Minnesota. “I came here not knowing much about research, but now I feel much more comfortable establishing research goals and processes for particular projects.”

While at IUPUI, Solfest studied signaling and rhythmic relationships between heartbeats and the respiratory system. She one day hopes to work in kinesiology.

Victoria Gershuny, a senior at the University of Colorado, sees her future in oncology. Her project involved studying the blood flow to the eyes of patients with glaucoma.

“This program allowed me to really see how both of my majors, chemical engineering and mathematics, can work together as part of a bioscience research project. I really liked being able to experience not only the academic labs on campus but also the medical labs at the (Indiana University) med school and how the two work together,” she said.

MBI is a research-focused educational organization that caters to both undergraduate and graduate students studying mathematical modeling and bioscience. The summer undergraduate program accepted 20 students from across the country to participate in on-site research experiences with peers and faculty mentors at partner universities such as IUPUI.

Mathematical Biosciences InstituteSupporting undergraduate research is a key component of the educational mission for the School of Science.

Linh Huyn hopes to continue her research well after she finishes her degree in mathematics at Texas Women’s University. She is planning to seek her Ph.D. in applied mathematics.

“This whole time here was amazing,” said Huyn, who studied the influence of higher potassium levels on neuron behavior using the Hodgekin-Huxley model, a mathematical model that describes how action potentials in neurons are initiated.

“I learned to keep questioning when problems come up and how much your own curiosity is important when doing research,” said Huyn, who credited her faculty mentor for helping her make progress with her research.

Each student was paired with at least one faculty mentor from the Department of Mathematical Sciences. Participating faculty members included Giovanna Guidoboni, Julia Arciero, Leonid Rubchinsky, Alexey Kuznetsov and Yaroslav Molkov.

“Because these students were recruited nationwide, this gives us a chance to have the same exposure as programs at some of the larger schools across the country,” Guidoboni said. “Our urban location allowed us to give these students the experience of working with hospitals and local industry. They can now go back to their institutions and think positively about IUPUI.”

The math department held a reception for the students to celebrate the completion of their research experience and interact with faculty.

Other universities to host MBI students included Arizona State University, University of Minnesota, University of Houston, University of Pittsburgh and Virginia Tech University.

The three students leave IUPUI and travel back to MBI in Columbus, Ohio, to present the findings of their research. They then will complete their degrees and begin deciding on a graduate school to continue their education.