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The University of Dundee has a long history of mathematical biology, going back to Professor Sir D'Arcy Wentworth Thompson, Chair of Natural History, 1884-1917. Read more

Mathematical Biology at Dundee

The University of Dundee has a long history of mathematical biology, going back to Professor Sir D'Arcy Wentworth Thompson, Chair of Natural History, 1884-1917. In his famous book On Growth and Form (where he applied geometric principles to morphological problems) Thompson declares:

"Cell and tissue, shell and bone, leaf and flower, are so many portions of matter, and it is in obedience to the laws of physics that their particles have been moved, molded and conformed. They are no exceptions to the rule that God always geometrizes. Their problems of form are in the first instance mathematical problems, their problems of growth are essentially physical problems, and the morphologist is, ipso facto, a student of physical science."

Current mathematical biology research in Dundee continues in the spirit of D'Arcy Thompson with the application of modern applied mathematics and computational modelling to a range of biological processes involving many different but inter-connected phenomena that occur at different spatial and temporal scales. Specific areas of application are to cancer growth and treatment, ecological models, fungal growth and biofilms. The overall common theme of all the mathematical biology research may be termed"multi-scale mathematical modelling" or, from a biological perspective, "quantitative systems biology" or"quantitative integrative biology".

The Mathematical Biology Research Group currently consists of Professor Mark Chaplain, Dr. Fordyce Davidson and Dr. Paul Macklin along with post-doctoral research assistants and PhD students. Professor Ping Lin provides expertise in the area of computational numerical analysis. The group will shortly be augmented by the arrival of a new Chair in Mathematical Biology (a joint Mathematics/Life Sciences appointment).

As a result, the students will benefit directly not only from the scientific expertise of the above internationally recognized researchers, but also through a wide-range of research activities such as journal clubs and research seminars.

Aims of the programme

1. To provide a Masters-level postgraduate education in the knowledge, skills and understanding of mathematical biology.
2. To enhance analytical and critical abilities and competence in the application of mathematical modeling techniques to problems in biomedicine.

Prramme Content

This one year course involves taking four taught modules in semester 1 (September-December), followed by a further 4 taught modules in semester 2 (January-May), and undertaking a project over the Summer (May-August).

A typical selection of taught modules would be:

Dynamical Systems
Computational Modelling
Statistics & Stochastic Models
Inverse Problems
Mathematical Oncology
Mathematical Ecology & Epidemiology
Mathematical Physiology
Personal Transferable Skills

Finally, all students will undertake a Personal Research Project under the supervision of a member of staff in the Mathematical Biology Research Group.

Methods of Teaching

The programme will involve a variety of teaching formats including lectures, tutorials, seminars, journal clubs, case studies, coursework, and an individual research project.

Taught sessions will be supported by individual reading and study.

Students will be guided to prepare their research project plan and to develop skills and competence in research including project management, critical thinking and problem solving, project reporting and presentation.

Career Prospects

The Biomedical Sciences are now recognizing the need for quantitative, predictive approaches to their traditional qualitative subject areas. Healthcare and Biotechnology are still fast-growing industries in UK, Europe and Worldwide. New start-up companies and large-scale government investment are also opening up employment prospects in emerging economies such as Singapore, China and India.

Students graduating from this programme would be very well placed to take advantage of these global opportunities.

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IT Tralee is currently seeking to recruit ahigh calibre and suitably qualified science graduate to undertake this Master by Research programme in the Department of Biological and Pharmaceutical Sciences at IT Tralee. Read more

IT Tralee is currently seeking to recruit ahigh calibre and suitably qualified science graduate to undertake this Master by Research programme in the Department of Biological and Pharmaceutical Sciences at IT Tralee. Graduates holding a relevant Level 8 Honours Degree (second class honours or higher) are invited to submit an application. The successful applicants will be awarded a stipend of €700 per month for a maximum period of 18 months and the Institute will waive full fees for this funding period. Postgraduate students are expected to complete their studies full-time at the Institute.

Biography of Principle Supervisor

Mr Quille received his Degree in Chemistry of Pharmaceutical Compounds from University College Cork in 2007. He has since completed an M.Sc in Biotechnology in the Shannon ABC laboratories at IT Tralee on a project entitled: The preparation of an alginate with a hydrophobic moiety that retains its biocompatibility and immunosuppressive properties while remaining suitable for cellular encapsulation. He has previously worked in Astellas as a Process Technician and in Shannon ABC as a Biochemical Technician. He currently holds the role of Research Scientist with Shannon ABC. Previous projects include developing a commercial focus to the use of bioassays in the assessment of different components of seaweed and the impact of seasonality. He has worked on the FP7 funded project NatuCrop where he oversaw extensive tomato growth room, glasshouse and field trials. Results of his work have been presented at a number of conferences all over Europe and in Brazil. He is currently working on a Horizon 2020 project. 

Research Project Abstract

Crop productivity relies heavily on nitrogen fertilisation which in itself requires huge amounts of energy to produce. Also excess applications of nitrogen to the land is detrimental to the environment therefore increasing plant nitrogen use efficiency (NUE) is essential in the promotion of sustainable agriculture. The use of seaweed and seaweed extracts in agriculture is well documented. The most popular and well researched type of seaweed extract commercially available is an Ascophyllum Nodosum extract (ANE). Ascophyllum is a brown seaweed that is native to the waters of Ireland as it grows best in the North Atlantic basin. Seaweed extracts have been described to enhance seed germination and establishment, improve plant growth, yield, flower set and fruit production, increase resistance to biotic and abiotic stresses, and improve postharvest shelf life. Previously a seaweed extract when combined with a fertiliser regime increased the productivity and oil content and accelerated maturation (colour and firmness) of the olive fruits from olive trees. Oil-Seed Rape (OSR; Brassica napus) is a member of the Brassicaceae family that is grown for its oil content. It requires extensive nitrogen fertilisation, however it has a poor N-harvest index meaning a lot of nitrogen is lost in the straw rather than transported to the pod. The aim or our study is to apply 4 commercially available ANE’s to winter and spring crops of OSR (different varieties) in a controlled growth room and glasshouse and finally in a field setting under different fertiliser regimes. Treatments will be assessed by comparing fresh weight, dry weight, and seed/oil yield and oil quality. Plant tissue will also be saved in order to assess other parameters such as flavonol accumulation, nitrate reductase, gene expression (NRT2) and photosynthetic parameters.

Research Context (Technical Merit & Impact)

600,000 Ha of OSR is planted in the UK and Ireland alone every year, recommended input of nitrogen is 200 kg (0.2 tonnes) per Ha meaning 120,000 tonnes of nitrogen every year. As OSR only has an N-harvest index of 0.6, representing 48,000 tonnes lost, which is a massive financial loss as well as potentially environmentally detrimental. In determining the effect of ANE’s on NUE current research focuses on the outcome, i.e. is yield increased, rather than investigate the method by which the yield has increased. This research is aimed a filling some void of knowledge here by linking phenotypic differences to biochemical and genetic data of treated plants in order to assign a potential mode of action.

Research Methodology

While ANE’s have been shown to increase nitrogen assimilation, extensive growth trials, especially in economically important crops (such as OSR) which investigate their role in affecting NUE are scarce and are only seemingly becoming popular in recent years. However considering the increased price of nitrogen, the additional interest in biostimulants (ANE’s in particular), the need to feed a growing population and coupled to the environmental damage of excess nitrogen this can be considered a ‘hot topic’. Plant (glasshouse and field setting) trials will be conducted and analysed for phenotypic data (photosynthetic measurements, yield). Materials from these plant trials must then be harvested, extracted and saved for biochemical and genetic determination. Lab-based techniques employed include protein extraction, western blotting and spectrophotometry, RT-PCR and HPLC. This 3 pronged approach from assessing phenotype to the biochemical level and finally to the gene level will provide evidence on mode of action of the ANE’s potential impact on NUE in OSR.



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