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Mathematical Adventures in Biology

Michael W. Deem
Rice University

Some questions at the interfaces between biology, mathematics, and theoretical physics are suggested. What are some questions of biology, whose formulation is mathematical and whose contemplation and resolution might lead to a greater understanding of the natural world and open new avenues for physics?

For example, can fundamental questions be formulated about evolution or speciation? What about systems biology or physiology? Here I suggest some questions at the interfaces between biology, mathematics, and physics. These questions largely relate to the statistical behavior of biological systems. This choice to some extent reflects my own research interests. This choice also reflects a suggestion that some of the unresolved issues in mathematical biology are related to the diversity, randomness, variation, and correlations in biology. With some luck, physics-based approaches may shed further light on some of these issues. I believe that the answers to many if not all of the questions suggested here lie within the grasp of the physics and biology community. For each question, an answer can be tested experimentally, aids interpretation of biological data, or has direct implications for medical practice. Answers to these questions may lead to a more thorough understanding of biology, and in all likelihood to an ever expanding set of new questions. Click here for Feature Article Physics Today January 2007.