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(Last updated 9/13/10)

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COLUMBUS, Ohio -- Ohio State University’s Mathematical Biosciences Institute (MBI) has won five years of funding from the National Science Foundation (NSF), for a total of $16.2 million in continued support.

Since 2002, the MBI has actively promoted and facilitated interdisciplinary research among the mathematical, biological, and biomedical sciences. 

Marty Golubitsky, Director of the MBI, shared his enthusiasm for the institute’s continued work.

“What makes our mission so important and exciting is that the mathematical and statistical techniques needed to make progress in the biological sciences are often quite different from the more traditional techniques used in the physical sciences and engineering -- and oftentimes they lead to new mathematics,” he explained.

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“MBI’s success in this year’s national institutes’ competition was due in large measure to the TIE infrastructure support that it received from Ohio State during the past four years,” Golubitsky said.

“It is for this reason that the mathematics community supports an institute to explore the many and varied relations between the mathematical and biological sciences.”

While the link between biology and mathematics may not seem obvious at first, researchers have shown that the two are intimately connected.

For instance, MBI scholars have discovered new methods for helping wounds heal -- using calculus. They have tracked the worldwide spread of viruses -- including H1N1 -- using statistics. And they have gained a new understanding of the body’s immune response using computer models.

Though the MBI has been in existence since 2002, it must regularly compete with other NSF-funded Mathematical Sciences Institutes for continued funding. Eight such institutes now exist across the country, and five -- including the MBI -- will be funded as a result of this year’s competition.

The MBI uses its funding to support the work of 12 or more postdoctoral fellows annually, along with a number of long-term visiting scholars.

During their visit, scholars collaborate with Ohio State researchers. Over the years, these collaborations have resulted in research published in the world’s most prestigious journals, including Science, Nature, and the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Approximately 700 visitors each year attend special MBI workshops. The topics change each year to reflect key world issues, such as climate change or public health.

One telling statistic: more than half of all visitors who attend these MBI workshops have reported that their visit directly led them to form new research collaborations.

Still, the success of the MBI depends on internal support as well, and Golubitsky credited the university’s Targeted Investment in Excellence (TIE) program for providing funds to attract new permanent faculty researchers, which in turn attract new visiting scholars.

“MBI’s success in this year’s national institutes’ competition was due in large measure to the TIE infrastructure support that it received from Ohio State during the past four years,” Golubitsky said.

The other four Mathematical Sciences Institutes that were awarded funding are: the Mathematical Sciences Research Institute (a private corporation located in Berkeley, California), Institute for Pure and Applied Mathematics (University of California, Los Angeles), Institute for Mathematics and its Applications (University of Minnesota), and a new institute, the Institute for Computational and Experimental Research in Mathematics (Brown University).


Contact: Marty Golubitsky, (614) 292-3648; Golubitsky.4@osu.edu
Written by Pam Frost Gorder, (614) 292-9475; Gorder.1@osu.edu