De Pillis to Keynote BEER Conference

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In her keynote talk “Mathematical Medicine: Modeling Disease and Treatment,” Lisette de Pillis will present a sampling of mathematical models that help to simulate immune system interactions, disease dynamics and
treatment approaches that may slow, or even stop, disease progression.

De Pillis will address researchers, educators and students from around the world at the International Symposium on Biomathematics and Ecology Education and Research (BEER) held Oct. 6–8 at Illinois State University.

Immune system dynamics in the context of a number of diseases, including certain cancers and type I diabetes, continues to play an increasingly central role in the development of new treatment strategies. The critical importance of the immune system in fighting such diseases has been verified clinically, as well as through mathematical models. Many open questions remain, however, including what may lead to non-uniform patient responses to treatments, and how to optimize and personalize therapy protocols. Mathematical models can help to provide insights into the mechanisms that may be influencing patient outcomes and provide a way to investigate questions that are difficult, if not impossible, to address in any other way.

De Pillis is passionate about using mathematics to look for solutions to real-world problems and works with other mathematicians, biologists and oncologists to search for new ways to treat cancer sufferers and victims of HIV infection. She is the chair of the Harvey Mudd College Department of Mathematics, is a professor of mathematics and holds the Norman F. Sprague Life Sciences Chair.

She came to Harvey Mudd College upon earning her PhD in mathematics at UCLA. During her time at HMC, her research interests have moved from computational fluid dynamics and parallel computing to mathematical biology and cancer immunology. In the year 2000, De Pillis’s multidisciplinary accomplishments were recognized by the Argonne National Laboratory with the Maria Goeppert-Mayer Distinguished Scholar award, an honor that had been bestowed on scientists from several fields, and only once before to a mathematician.