Being Second Atop the mountain

Doing research isn’t an easy thing to do. There’s a reason that not everyone is an academic. Trying to bang one’s head up against the wall of science isn’t most people’s idea of a fun time. That being said, when you do get an idea of a direction it can go, it’s exciting. You start gaining momentum, and before you know it, you’ve gotten a paper drafted up. Soon, you will be able to publish…

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Labyrinth: Fitness landscapes as mazes, not mountains

Tonight, I am passing through Toulouse on my way to Montpellier for the 2nd Joint Congress on Evolutionary Biology. If you are also attending then find me on 21 August at poster P-0861 on level 2 to learn about computational complexity as an ultimate constraint on evolution. During the flight over, I was thinking about fitness landscapes. Unsurprising — I know. A particular point that I try to make about fitness landscapes in my work…

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Where Are Your Weaknesses?

During one of my calculus classes in university, we were running behind in terms of class content. Within the last few days of class, the professor announced that the topic of Taylor and McLaurin series and expansions weren’t going to be part of the final exam, but he would hold an optional “extra” class for those who were interested. I was interested, but I also live far away from the university, which meant I didn’t…

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Looking for a species in cancer but finding strategies and players

Sometime before 6 August 2014, David Basanta and Tamir Epstein were discussing the increasing focus of mathematical oncology on tumour heterogeneity. An obstacle for this focus is a good definitions of heterogeneity. One path around this obstacle is to take definitions from other fields like ecology — maybe species diversity. But this path is not straightforward: we usually — with some notable and interesting examples — view cancer cells as primarily asexual and the species…

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Pairing Simple Examples With Complex Machinery

Teaching a new concept within mathematics or science isn’t easy. It requires taking students outside of their comfort zones to try and understand how we model phenomena that is more complex than previously seen. This tends to require new tools and techniques, which means students have to shed their old tools in favour of these new ones. This can leave students disgruntled, particularly those who were attached to the old method of solving problems. While…

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Darwin as an early algorithmic biologist

In his autobiography, Darwin remarked on mathematics as an extra sense that helped mathematicians see truths that were inaccessible to him. He wrote: During the three years which I spent at Cambridge… I attempted mathematics… but got on very slowly. The work was repugnant to me, chiefly from my not being able to see any meaning in the early steps in algebra. This impatience was very foolish, and in after years I have deeply regretted…

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Attempting Problems

One of the most important things you can do when learning a new subject is attempting it with your best effort. While this sounds simple, so many people think they are too good for this step and skip it. I was reminded of this at the beginning of last semester. One of my professors said, “When you read the chapters in the book, do the examples that are there. It’s extremely important that you do.…

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