Mathematics Faculty: Leif Zinn Brooks

Leif Zinn BrooksLeif Zinn-Brooks, PhD, Visiting Assistant Professor, specializes in mathematical biology. My biological research interests are broad, but generally focus on cell biology. Mathematically, my research typically involves formulating, simulating, and analyzing systems of ordinary and partial differential equations.

In graduate school, I studied collective cell migration and chemotaxis. My graduate thesis was on modeling development of the zebrafish lateral line, a sensory system akin to the human auditory system. The lateral line develops when a cell collective migrates through the fish embryo, depositing sensory organs along its journey. Currently, I am studying how circadian rhythms are coordinated in a syncytial (multinucleate) cell. For the past two years, I have been working on modeling circadian rhythms in the fungus Neurospora crassa. I have also been working with an undergraduate student on simulating rolling paths of ball-rolling dung beetles. These beetles, after forming a dung ball at a dung pile, roll their ball away from the pile for burial and later consumption. Remarkably, beetles can use celestial cues, including the stars, sun, and milky way, to maintain the desired rolling direction, even while rolling dung balls larger than themselves over uneven ground.

I particularly enjoy teaching mathematical modeling courses, where I introduce students to the myriad ways that mathematics can be used to study biological problems. I was the recipient of a UCLA departmental teaching award for the 2019-20 academic year.

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