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Pi Mu Epsilon Speakers Discuss Applications of Mathematics to Biology and Physics History

The national mathematics honor society Pi Mu Epsilon hosted faculty from Winthrop University (SC) and Central Washington University (WA) for engaging colloquia on topics at the intersection of mathematics, biology, history, and physics.

On Thursday, Oct. 27, Pi Mu Epsilon hosted Zach Abernathy from Winthrop University for his talk, "Modeling the Cancer Stem Cell Hypothesis: Growth, Treatment, and Recurrence." 

To a crowd of 51 Elon students and faculty, Abernathy, an assistant professor of mathematics, explained how tumor recurrence is a common event in cancer patients. Presumably this happens because cancer therapy focuses on treatment of tumor cells and does not eradicate cancer stem cells. It is conjectured that cancer stem cells behave similarly to normal stem cells in that their role is to maintain homeostasis. That is, when the population of tumor cells is reduced or depleted by treatment, CSCs will repopulate the tumor, causing recurrence.  

Abernathy gave a description of the research he has conducted with undergraduate students which aims to predict cancer dynamics and therefore has the potential to inform treatment plans to maximize the lengths of cancer remission.

On Thursday, Nov. 10, Pi Mu Epsilon hosted Dominic Klyve from Central Washington University for his talk, "Rethinking the Universe: the Gravity Crisis of the 1740s." The introduction to Klyve's talk begins this way: "In November of 1747, a young man stood before the prestigious Paris Academy of Science. The man, Alexis Clairaut, was well known to the academy, and was considered by many of its members to be the greatest physicist in the world. On this day, however, he seemed unusually nervous. Taking a deep breath, he announced to those assembled that Isaac Newton's inverse-square law of gravity, the most certain of all physical laws, was wrong. Clairaut's desperate move came at the end of a decade in which all of the leading scientists of the day found reason to question Newton's theories."  

To a crowd of 43 Elon students, faculty, and guests, Klyve, an associate professor of mathematics, then spent the rest of the talk telling the story of the fascinating people involved, the reasons they came to doubt, and their many attempts at solutions. There were two recurring themes: (1) how do we come to know anything in science? and (2) what is the possibility that we are still mistaken about some fundamental ideas?

After Klyve's talk, Pi Mu Epsilon faculty advisor Chad Awtrey advertised the society's final speaker of the semester: Associate Professor Jim Beuerle. Beuerle will speak about what it means to divide things fairly among a group of people.

The talk will take place on Thursday, Dec. 1, from 5 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. in Duke 203.  All are welcome to attend.

Chad Awtrey,
11/17/2016 2:50 PM