[The Society for Mathematical Biology was so kind to ask me for a couple of words. See below what I had to say for the “The Future of Math Biology” column of the SMB Newsletter, 26(1),2013]
The Future of Math Biology
Lennart Hilbert, Ph. D. Student, Dept. of Physiology,
McGill University, Montréal, Québec, Canada
Ph. D. Supervisors: Michael C. Mackey and Anne-Marie Lauzon
What advice will you give to an undergraduate interested in a mathematical biology career?
Start approaching faculty in your field of interest from the get-go, and you will be working with them sooner than you might ever think. Don’t let the fear of
mistakes stop you from great work; If you genuinely care, you will fix them and learn an incredible lot. Try out different topics, read papers and attend talks that are new to you.
What inspires you scientifically?
For my motivation – figuring out a problem using my training and intuition feels great. My best inspiration is probably my experimental lab mates. Their pragmatic ideas and criticism demand simple and clear answers, which frequently push me to explore new, difficult quantitative approaches.
What attracted you to mathematical biology?
After my slim physics education (3 year B.Sc. Bremen University), I wished to apply my knowledge, travel the world, so I took a year off of regular studies. Michael Mackey’s support allowed me to stay at McGill and Oxford University for a total of half a year, after which I took all my courage to ask
if I could start Graduate Studies with him.
What is your current research project?
Reverse engineering smooth muscle contractile proteins from in vitro motility assays – it integrates my own wet lab experiments, video analysis software
development, and modelling and simulation of mechanically coupled myosin protein motors.
What specific areas are you interested in investigating?
My thesis topic; higher hierarchical levels of muscle; generally, the emergence of macroscopic phenomena from coupled, microscopic units, e.g. evolutionary,
regulatory, informational, or societal phenomena.
What do you hope to do after graduation?
Academically reconnect with Germany and Europe, to keep open my academic perspectives on both sides of the Atlantic Ocean.
Why did you join the Society for Mathematical Biology?
To attend an Annual Meeting – a highly rewarding experience.
Michael Mackey and Anne-Marie Lauzon, Lennart’s PhD advisor, say:
Lennart, with his training in physics and mathematics from the University of Bremen, has taken to his research in Montréal like a duck to water. He is working collaboratively between my group and the laboratory of Anne-Marie Lauzon on problems related to actin-myosin interactions. The challenge of doing real experiments, analyzing the data, and then trying to construct realistic mathematical and physical models that are consistent with the known physiology
and the data he collects is giving him a wonderful introduction into the excitement and complexities of modern mathematical biology. Additionally Lennart has proved to be a very positive addition to the Montréal and McGill scene, and has been one of the focal points for organizing his fellow students into all sorts of interesting scientific activities as well as some non-science events that have all proved to be a big hit with all concerned. His passion for music and art
and science, combined with his native curiosity for all manner of other things, mark him as someone with a future to be watched.