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Biological Modeling

Description

Aim: Biological modeling strives to use advanced mathematical tools to explain biological phenomena. Two groups are active in this area at CCNY, modeling biological processes at different levels: molecular and ecological.

The first group, computational biophysics,aims to understand how molecular biological systems work in terms of the fundamental laws of Physics and Chemistry. Biomolecules, such as proteins and nucleic acids, have well defined conformations which often change in the course of their function. Our goal is to understand the forces that operate within and between biomolecules and develop quantitative mathematical models for their energy as a function of conformation. Such models are useful in many ways, such as predicting the three-dimensional structure from sequence, characterizing conformational changes involved in biological function, or predicting the binding affinity between two biomolecules.

The second group (ecological modeling) uses mathematical models to understand the relationships that organisms, populations, and species have with the physical and biotic environment. For example, demographic data (population sizes, age structure, sex ratios) can summarize and explain trends in the population of a species and the relationships between those trends and both static and dynamic environmental variables. Similarly, the geographic distribution (range) of a species results from a complex interplay between the physical and biotic environment on one hand, and various biological interactions (competition, mutualism, etc.) and the evolutionary history of the species on the other. Increasingly, ecological modeling employs data regarding climatic change and human land use, linking basic research to current environmental issues important to society.

 

Faculty and their research interests