Collaborating with researchers across a range of disciplines Collaborating with researchers across a range of disciplines

The School of Mathematics has many well-established links with biologists working across the UEA campus, on the Norwich Research Park, and further afield.

Locally the School collaborates with researchers in School of Biological Sciences (BIO), the School of Computing Sciences (CMP), the School of Environmental Sciences (ENV), the Norwich Medical School (MED), the Institute for Food Research (IFR) and the John Innes Centre (JIC). The Centre for Interdisciplinary Mathematical Research (CIMR) provides a forum for establishing new links between mathematicians and other scientists.

Members of the School of Mathematics who conduct research in this area are: Mark Blyth, Mark Cooker, Paul Hammerton, Alexander Korobkin, Emilian Parau, Richard Purvis, Nigel Scott, and Robert Whittaker. These researchers have a wide range of modelling experience, including biological fluid mechanics, theoretical ecology, and metabolic pathways. Details of some of the past and present projects are included below.

For details of potential PhD research topics in this area, please see PhD Projects in Biological and Industrial Mathematics.


Mathematical modelling of digestion

Research Team: Mark Blyth, Mark Cooker, Robert Penfold (IFR), Richard Purvis

This project aims to develop a mathematical description of the Dynamic Gastric Model created by colleagues at IFR (see picture). The mathematical model aims to describe the key digestive processes occurring in the fundus, the upper part of the stomach. Foodstuffs entering the fundus are acted upon by enzymes delivered via a gentle pulsing of the elastic wall. The project is predominantly theoretical with some experimental input from IFR.

The Dynamic Gastric Model apparatus constructed by the Institute for Food Research (IFR) for performing experimental simulations of the digestion process.

Bacterial denitrification

Research Team: Mark Blyth, Vincent Moulton (CMP), David Richardson (BIO).

Bacterial denitrification is a mechanism used by many bacterial species to support respiration in the absence of oxygen. Its widespread occurrence in nitrogen-rich agricultural soils makes it an important topic for study. Nitrous oxide, which is released into the atmosphere as a bi-product of the denitrification process, is a substantially more potent agent for global warming than carbon dioxide. This project aims to develop a mathematical model to study the pertinent metabolic pathway for denitrification and to estimate the consequent levels of nitrous oxide release in soils.

Motion of red blood cells

Research Team: Mark Blyth

This project involves developing a model of the motion of red blood cells, idealised as fluid-filled elastic capsules, through capillary bifurcations and branchings. Applications include the manufacture of synthetic blood.

Numerical simulation of a red blood cell entering a capillary side branch. The flow is from left to right, and each red shape shows the position and deformation of the cell at a different time.

Cytoplasmic streaming in plant cells

Research Team: Mark Blyth, Alexander Korobkin, Scott Grandison (CMP), Richard Morris (JIC)

Cytoplasmic streaming refers to the streaming motion generated by the ratcheting of organelles along actin cables suspended in the cytoplasm of a plant cell. This streaming motion is important in delivering nutrients efficiently to different parts of the cell. The process itself, however, is not well understood. This project aims to create a model of streaming motion in a viscous liquid to mimic that occurring in the cytoplasm and, in particular, to estimate the importance of streaming in the development and growth of root hairs.

Foraging habits of grasshoppers

Research Team: Mark Blyth, Paul Dolman (ENV), Paul Hammerton, Mark Hassall (ENV)

In this project, the foraging habits of grasshoppers are studied through a combination of theoretical ecology, fieldwork, and mathematical modelling.

Instabilities of flow through elastic-walled tubes

Research team: Dr Robert Whittaker

Mathematical modelling of an instabilities of fluid flow through elastic-walled tubes, with applications to blood flow in larger veins and arteries. The research focuses on a particular 'sloshing' mechanism which leads to long-wavelength high-frequency self-excited oscillations.

The extreme wall positions for the first and second normal modes of an instability of fast flow through an elastic-walled tube under high axial tension. (Whittaker et. al., 2010)