Students present at international conference

YSU Student Success Stories from the YSU College of STEM who presented their research at an international conference.

From the left are Joelle Ballone, Mark Radetic, Robert DeVita, Sarah Ritchey and Matt Pierson.

Six YSU undergraduate students spent their summer on research that combines the disciplines of mathematics and biology and then presented their findings at an international conference, the 2012 Annual Meeting of the Society of Mathematical Biology.

Math majors Sarah Ritchey, of Sharon, Pa., and Estee George, of Boardman, presented a poster on the “Modeling Butanol Production by Clostridium beijerinckii.” Robert DeVita, a biology major from McDonald, was a co-author of the research.

Biology major Joelle Ballone and math major Matt Pierson, both from Youngstown, did their poster presentation on research titled “Mathematical Modeling of Growth and Selenium Metabolism of S. maltophilia O2.”  Biology major Mark Radetic of Austintown was also a co-author.

“Conducting interdisciplinary research and presenting results at an international conference are great experiences for students,” said George Yates, an associate professor of Mathematics and Statistics and one of four faculty members who advised the two student teams. “It gives them the opportunity to exchange research ideas with a worldwide audience and to see what others in mathematical biology are investigating.”

More than 400 scientists, mathematicians and undergraduate students from 23 countries and 35 states participated in the conference, held at the University of Tennessee-Knoxville and hosted by the National Institute for Mathematical and Biological Synthesis.

The students are participating in a research program in Mathematical Biology and Undergraduate Research at YSU funded by a grant from the National Science Foundation. They did their work using laboratories and equipment in the YSU Center for Applied Chemical Biology. “This is genuine research,” Yates said. “They’re addressing problems at the leading edge of our knowledge. They postulate how bacteria produce butanol or deal with toxic selenite, develop mathematical models, perform critical experiments to verify or refute their model and use the results to modify the current understanding.”

Other faculty who advised the students on their research included Jonathan Caguiat, associate professor of Biological Sciences, Jozsi Jalics, associate professor of Mathematics and Statistics, and Gary Walker, chair and professor of Biological Sciences.