WSSU and Virginia Tech Receive U.S. Department of Defense Grant to Study Molecular Networking Behavior

September 27, 2011

Winston-Salem State University (WSSU) and Virginia Tech researchers recently received a joint three-year $375,000 U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) grant to work with students to study ways using algebra can predict networking activity of molecules which ultimately can lead to curing diseases and other benefits.
Dr. John O. Adeyeye, WSSU professor and department of mathematics chair, and Dr. Reinhard Laubenbacher, professor and director of outreach programs at Virginia Tech’s Virginia Bioinformatics Institute (VBI) have collaborated to work with students in a study titled, “Algebraic Models of Complex Biological Networks: From Structure to Dynamics.”

A better understanding of the behavior of molecules and their network interactions can help scientists design stronger products and even aid in the control or cure of certain diseases such as cancer.  Because of the complexity of molecular networks, it is very difficult to study them effectively without the help of computer models based on mathematics. The work to be carried out as part of the grant is aimed at helping the WSSU students develop tools for the analysis of such computer models that can help scientists mimic or predict the behavior of molecules.
“This project will provide many exciting opportunities for WSSU students to get involved in research at the intersection of mathematics and the life sciences. Research on solving many of our most pressing and challenging problems in human health, a sustainable food and energy supply, and responsible stewardship of our environment relies increasingly on the use of mathematical and computational tools,” Adeyeye, project manager said.

The research focuses specifically on gene regulatory and metabolic networks that orchestrate the many possibilities of biochemical processes that take place in organisms. The students will work to understand how organisms function and their possible connection to many disease processes, such as cancer, which stem from a malfunctioning of a regulatory network.
“Biological research is in the midst of a revolutionary change due to the integration of powerful technologies along with new concepts and methods derived from inclusion of physical sciences, computational sciences, engineering and mathematics,” Adeyeye added.

“Students with an experience in this research area can look forward to a broad range of exciting career options such as researchers and professionals in academia, industry, and government.”

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