Tuesday 16 November 2021

BioMaths Colloquium 01/12/2021

BioMaths Colloquium Series - 2021/22


01 December 2021 - 4pm

(Online only - Zoom link: register here)

Insights from mathematical models of spheroids for drug uptake & cancer spread

Professor Rachel Bearon

(Department of Mathematical Sciences, University of Liverpool)

Our BioMaths Colloquium Series continues with a seminar by Professor Rachel Bearon from the  Department of Mathematical Sciences at the University of Liverpool. Rachel Bearon is Head of Department and member of the mathematical biology research group. She has extensive experience of developing models bridging spatial and temporal scales to make biological predictions concerning the movement of cells within complex environments, and applying mathematics to health challenges. Furthermore, she has significant expertise working directly with experimental biologists to develop novel frameworks for processing and integrating imaging data. Her PhD studying bacterial chemotaxis in biological fluid dynamics (Prof Tim Pedley, University of Cambridge) was followed by postdoctoral research into the spatial-temporal dynamics of motile phytoplankton cells in turbulent environments (working with Prof Danny Grunbaum, University of Washington). From her appointment as Lecturer in 2005 at UoL she has developed a track record of productive collaborations with biologists. Rachel applies and develops mathematics to study the spatial and temporal dynamics of a wide range of biological systems across multiple scales, ranging from bacterial chemotaxis, cancer cell motility and phytoplankton in turbulence, to modelling cell-signalling pathways, intracellular protein dynamics and drug transport.


Mathematical models can aid discovery in the life sciences, by providing predictive tools, and allowing efficient testing of ‘what-if’ scenarios. However, identifying the ‘right’ model, and suitably parameterizing it, is a challenging task which mathematicians are well-placed to contribute. I will discuss two projects based upon an experiments on 3D spheroid cell culture systems [1,2]. Cells cultured in such system have been shown to more closely resemble the functionality and morphology of cells in-vivo, and so there is increasing interest in using these systems for example in drug toxicity studies and for better understanding cancer metastasis.
[1]  Leedale, J. A., Kyffin, J., Harding, A., Colley, H., Murdoch, C., Sharma, P., Williams, D., Webb, S. & Bearon, R. (2020). Multiscale modelling of drug transport and metabolism in liver spheroids. Interface Focus, 10(2). doi:10.1098/rsfs.2019.0041
[2] Scott, M., Zychaluk, K. & Bearon, R. (2021) A mathematical framework for modelling 3D cell motility; applications to Glioblastoma cell migration. Mathematical Medicine and Biology, 38(3) doi.org/10.1093/imammb/dqab009

Hope to see many of you!

For the list of forthcoming seminars, see here

Saturday 23 October 2021

BioMaths Colloquium 03/11/2021


BioMaths Colloquium Series - 2021/22


03 November 2021 - 3pm Singleton Campus & on Zoom

(Wallace 218, Singleton Campus, Zoom link: register here)

Using molecular modelling to answer a variety of biological questions

Dr Georgina Menzies

(School of Biosciences, Cardiff University)

Our BioMaths Colloquium Series continues with a seminar by Dr. Georgina Menzies from the  School of Biosciences at Cardiff University. Georgina gained her BSc(Hons) in Forensic Science from the University of Glamorgan, studied for a MSc in Molecular Modelling from Cardiff University and for her PhD focused on the structure of DNA in cancer hotspot sites at Swansea University. After a Ser Cymru II fellowship to study the functional outcomes of dementia genetics, she took up a lectureship at the School of Biosciences in Cardiff University.
Her main research interests involve studying DNA repair pathways and in particular the protein and DNA structural interactions using molecular modelling techniques. She also collaborates with a number of other researchers and research groups to provide structural and functional information for their biological structure of interest. This ranges from drugs to anti-boides and proteins. Most of her research involves modelling techniques including molecular dynamics, coarse grain and mathematical modelling.


Hope to see many of you!

For the list of forthcoming seminars, see here

Wednesday 6 October 2021

Biomath Colloquium 06/10/2021


BioMaths Colloquium Series - 2021/22


06 October 2021 - 3pm Bay Campus & on Zoom

(Lecture Theatre 002, Computational Foundry, Bay Campus)

Modelling the COVID-19 pandemic in Wales

Prof Biagio Lucini

(Department of MathematicsSwansea University) 

We are extremely excited that our BioMaths Colloquium Series resumes after a Covid-19-induced break, with a fantastic set of speakers (see here) and will today be opened for the winter term with a seminar by Prof Biagio Lucini from the Department of Mathematics at Swansea University. Biagio Lucini took his Ph.D. from Scuola Normale Superiore (Pisa, Italy) in 2000. He then moved to Oxford University with a postdoctoral fellowship in the Theoretical Physics Department, before becoming Marie Curie Fellow in the same institution. After taking a postdoctoral position at ETH Zurich from October 2003 to September 2005, he returned to the UK with a Royal Society University Research Fellowship, held at Swansea University, his current institution, where he became Professor in 2011. He is a Fellow of the Learned Society of Wales and currently holds a Wolfson Research Merit Award and a Leverhulme Research Fellowship. His main research interests are in Monte Carlo calculations in complex systems with applications to Particle Physics and Statistical Mechanics. In the early stages of the COVID-19 pandemic, he began to explore applications of these methodologies to modelling of infectious diseases. On this subject, as a member of an interdisciplinary team including epidemiologists, computer science researchers and research software engineers at the Supercomputing Wales project, he has developed a model that produces dynamical scenarios for the evolution of the COVID-19 epidemics in Wales. Results from this modelling effort have informed and keep informing policies of the Welsh Government.

The COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in huge strains on various aspects of our life. In Wales, the need to understand, adapt and respond to the evolving situation has generated unprecedented challenges for the devolved health policies. As a first urgent response, the Technical Advisory Cell was created, which identified modelling as a high priority. This request led to the formation of the Swansea Modelling Team, a multidisciplinary team of Epidemiologists, Mathematicians, Biologists, Computer Scientists and Research Software Engineers. Through numerical simulations that produce likely scenarios under evolving conditions, this modelling effort has been the main forward-looking input that has informed and keeps informing government policies and containment measures. In this talk, I will tell the tales on how the team got together and produced the earliest set of scenarios. Then, I will provide an overview of the underlying mathematical and computational methods and discuss the key results and findings. Finally, I will give an overview of the challenges moving towards future possible scenarios for the evolution of the pandemic.  

Hope to see many of you!

For the list of forthcoming seminars, see here

Monday 18 January 2021

Wallace Coffee Talks - 26th January 2021

 Wallace Coffee Talks - Winter 2021

26th January - 1pm - Online (Zoom)

Fancy a cup of coffee or tea and learning more about the researchers at Swansea university and beyond? Come join us at the Wallace coffee talks: an informal seminar series where students, staff and others related to Swansea university speak about their research or personal interests.

Dominik Behr - University of Zurich 
Quantifying multistate mortality with incomplete records: A case study of the endangered African wild dog 
Mortality is a key demographic process in ecology and unbiased estimation thereof is paramount to understand and predict population dynamics. Studying mortality in wild animal populations, however, is often impeded by incomplete records such as, for instance, missing time of death of individuals that disappeared under unknown circumstances. In this talk, I will introduce a Bayesian framework to estimate mortality with incomplete records and present an application to a long-term dataset on the endangered African wild dog (Lycaon pictus). Our findings show that mortality during dispersal was lower than at philopatry in wild dogs of either sex. 

More information about Dominik's research project on African wild dogs can be found here:

Tuesday 1 December 2020

Wallace Coffee Talks - 8th December 2020

Wallace Coffee Talks - Autumn 2020
1st December - 2pm - Online (Zoom)

Fancy a cup of coffee or tea and learning more about the researchers at Swansea university? Come join us at the Wallace coffee talks: an informal seminar series where students, staff and others related to Swansea university speak about their research or personal interests.

Rowan Durrant
Modelling a transmissible cancer epidemic 
Devil facial tumour disease (DFTD) is a transmissible cancer of Tasmanian devils. Despite only being first observed in 1996, DFTD has now spread over most of the island of Tasmania and has caused devil population sizes to decline by up to 90%. Models of disease can be useful tools for predicting disease trajectory and evaluate mitigation strategies, but currently most models of DFTD are restricted to the local spatial scale. We created an individual-based metapopulation model that allowed us to investigate what drives a regional outbreak, and to test out a potential DFTD management method. Our findings show that DFTD-devil coexistence lies in a fine balance of within-population mixing, disease transmission rates and long-distance dispersal, and that DFTD management attempts can have potentially adverse outcomes for devil populations.

Charlotte Christensen   
Quantifying grooming budgets in wild chacma baboons (Papio ursinus) using tri-axial accelerometers
Non-human primates spend a considerable part of their day grooming. These sociopositive interactions have been linked to both social benefits (increased tolerance, coalition support) and physiological benefits, e.g. lower physiological stress levels through modulation of hypothalamus-pituitary-adrenal (HPA)-axis activity. Accurately quantifying the total time invested in grooming simultaneously for multiple individuals in a group, throughout day- and night-time is an impossible task for a human observer. For my PhD, I used tri-axial accelerometers (Daily Diaries) which recorded data continuously for 24 hours/day to obtain grooming budgets from chacma baboons (Papio ursinus). Using machine learning (random forest models), receiving and giving of grooming was identified with high accuracy (>79%) and recall (>78%). Whilst self-grooming has been identified from acceleration data in other species, this is the first-time social grooming (allogrooming) has been successfully identified and quantified for a primate species. Using absolute grooming budgets in combination with non-invasive hormone sampling, I aim to test hypotheses on the proximate mechanisms underpinning the link between sociality and HPA-axis activity. 

Friday 20 November 2020

Wallace Coffee Talks - 1st December 2020

 Wallace Coffee Talks - Autumn 2020

1st December - 12pm - Online (Zoom)

Fancy a cup of coffee or tea and learning more about the researchers at Swansea university? Come join us at the Wallace coffee talks: an informal seminar series where students, staff and others related to Swansea university speak about their research or personal interests.

Nathan Thomas
The basic biology and biotechnology applications of the photosynthetic flatworm Symsagittifera roscoffensis 
Symsagittifera roscoffensis or more commonly known as the mint source worm, is an Acoel in the phylum Xenacoelomorpha (previously Platyhelminthes). Symsagittifera roscoffensis gets its common name due to its vivid green colour, this colour is a result of symbiosis with the algae Tetraselmis Convoluta. Symbiosis means that all of the nutritional needs of these organisms are met by the photosynthetic activity of the algae. While S. roscoffensis are present at multiple locations within Europe, they only occur at one location within the UK. The scientific literature is sparse on key details that allow us to fully understand these organisms. My PhD focuses on understanding the basic biology, symbiotic interactions and behavioral aspects of these worms. Join me for this coffee talk where we will discuss the key research topics of my PhD and some preliminary data. 

Hywel Evans  
Fungal functional traits: their structure and role in ecological processes 
Fungi are critical components of terrestrial ecosystems. They recycle nutrients, create habitats, support plant communities, provide food for a wide variety of invertebrates and vertebrates and act as catalysts for Carbon and Nitrogen cycles. Fungi are ubiquitous in nature, but large parts of their life histories are unseen and difficult to quantify. The occasional fruiting body of some fungi alerts us to their presence, but the largest part of a fungus is the network of microscopic filaments called hyphae which it uses to burrow into its substrate. Advancements in molecular biology and high-throughput sequencing, has allowed us to study fungi in more detail, but due to their enormous diversity and often-large intra-specific variation, this still comes with its own set of challenges. Functional trait ecology can help us overcome some of these challenges. Functional trait ecology aims to examine characteristics, rather than individual species to help us better understand the fungal community. This approach is already prevalent in plant ecology, but for fungi it is still in its infancy. My research will consist of a meta-analysis of fungal functional traits, specifically looking at functional traits in the wood decomposing basidiomycetes, helping us to understand patterns in species assembly in wood decay communities and relationships between key traits. 

Monday 26 October 2020

Wallace Coffee Talks - 3rd November 2020

 Wallace Coffee Talks - Autumn 2020

3rd November- 12pm - Online (Zoom)

Fancy a cup of coffee or tea and learning more about the researchers at Swansea university? Come join us at the Wallace coffee talks: an informal seminar series where students, staff and others related to Swansea university speak about their research or personal interests.

Holly Stokes
Nesting ecology of sea turtles in the British Indian Ocean Territory (BIOT): Combining UAV and Biologging technology to estimate the population of foraging immature turtles at an important developmental site
Density and abundance estimates are key to understanding population dynamics and trends for use in conservation planning. Sea turtle population estimates can be challenging due to their elusive nature. Subsequently, current assessments are largely based on female adults using egg, nest, and track counts. The overarching aims of my PhD concentrate on data collection from nesting females and hatchlings, however, I was unable to conduct fieldwork due to COVID-19 this year. So, this first chapter concentrates on using available data to investigate immature foraging population estimates. There are several research gaps in our understanding of immature sea turtles, particularly critically endangered hawksbills in the Indian Ocean. We will explore how two techniques can be combined (Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) and biologging tags) to estimate the immature foraging population of green and hawksbill turtles at an important developmental site in BIOT. In this talk, I will introduce my PhD objectives and in relation to the first chapter, discuss the methods used and preliminary results along with what I plan to do next. 

Sarah Weil
Life-history traits and long distance dispersal outcomes: the success of fast-paced chameleons 
A pressing challenge in ecology is establishing the mechanisms that underlie the distribution of life at a global scale. Why do some species have populations in many different geographical areas, while others are highly restricted in range? A key determinant is presumably a species’ ability to disperse over long distances to form populations away from its core range; and this ability likely varies between species according to their traits. In my PhD, I am using macroecological and macroevolutionary approaches to investigate how dispersal and life-history traits facilitate long-distance dispersal, tieing together patterns observed over evolutionary time, dispersal in the present, and future responses under climate change scenarios. In this talk, I focus on the first chapter of my PhD in which I analyse the role of life-history traits in the outcome of natural long-distance dispersals in the past. Using chameleons (Chamaeleonidae) as an example family, I test whether species with fast life-history traits have a higher probability of long-distance dispersal success. Employing trait-dependent biogeographic models, I find that in the past, fast chameleons, characterized by early sexual maturity, large clutches and short gestation time, were more successful long-distance dispersers than slow species. These results help us to better understand the role of life-history traits in global biogeography and the establishment of new populations.