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The Einstein of Biomath to speak at B.E.E.R. Symposium

Illinois State University will be home to some of the brightest minds in one of the newest fields of science. And it will all happen at B.E.E.R.

The International Symposium on Biomathematics and Ecology Education Research (known as B.E.E.R.) will take place October 9 to 11 on the campus of Illinois State University. Drawing in some of the top names in the emerging field of biomathematics, the conference will place Normal, Illinois, in an international spotlight.

“Biomathematics is the interface where mathematical and natural sciences meet social sciences,” said Illinois State’s Professor of Mathematics Olcay Akman, who is organizing the symposium along with the Intercollegiate Biomathematics Alliance (IBA), based at the University. This is the eighth year of the annual symposium, which travels to universities across the nation.

image of Carlos Castillo-Chavez

Carlos Castillo-Chavez

Headlining the B.E.E.R. Symposium at Illinois State will be Carlos Castillo-Chavez. “If biomathematics has an Einstein of our field, then it is Castillo-Chavez,” said Akman.

An author of more than 200 books, journal articles, and chapters, Castillo-Chavez’s work uses both mathematical models and an understanding of ecology to explore the spread of diseases.

His research efforts include examining influenza and HIV, and creating models for the spread of alcoholism and drug use. He has also used mathematical models to view possible scenarios in homeland security for the invasion of diseases by natural, or bioterrorist, means. Castillo-Chavez’s next work will focus on using models to delve into the spread of extreme ideologies and their impact on cultural norms.

Castillo-Chavez is a distinguished sustainability scientist at the Julie Ann Wrigley Global Institute of Sustainability. He is also the Joaquin Bustoz Jr. Professor at Arizona State University, and the executive director of the Mathematics and Theoretical Biology Institute.

“Having Castillo-Chavez here will mean the eyes of the world on our campus,” said Akman. “And it is right, since Illinois State is at the center of this new field.” Born out of Illinois State’s Biomathematics Program, founded by Akman and Professor of Biology Steven Juliano, the University is now home to two international biomathematical journals, Letters in Biomathematics and SPORA. The campus is also the base for the IBA, which is a collaboration of colleges from across the nation. Read more about Illinois State’s emergence as a leader of biomathematics.

The symposium will also focus on sharing and developing education techniques for this new field. “Biomathematics is a fairly new field. You won’t hear stories of Galileo or the Greeks charging in to do biomath,” said Akman, whose own research creates mathematical models to understand the spread of cholera in Zimbabwe and Haiti. “It is a field with infinite possibilities, from helping farmers determine how much pesticide to purchase to doctors gaining an understanding of the optimal dosage in medicine.”

Symposium schedules and registration are available online. For more information about the B.E.E.R. Symposium or biomathematics, contact Akman at oakman@ilstu.edu.