In Interviews

Mathematical biologist Dr Peter Kim will be giving a talk at this year’s BioInfoSummer. Dr Kim spoke to us about his work, making friends in the field and collaborating with others to solve medical problems.

What do you think are the most interesting “big questions” in your field?
An important problem in mathematical biology, particularly medical mathematics, is to connect experimental data to differential equation models.  Building these connections occurs most effectively when experimental data tracks the progression of a cell population or some biological quantity over time.  In many cases, collecting this kind of time-series data is costly and technically challenging.  As a result, mathematical models that are built on preliminary experimental studies with only a few data points are useful for formulating hypotheses and guiding the direction of future investigations.  In this way, the role of mathematical modelling is not just to replicate existing data, but to guide experimental studies in promising directions.

Please tell us about your research interests.
My current research interests involve mathematical modelling of cancer-immune dynamics, modelling life history and behavioural evolution, and modelling bird-parasite interactions.  I approach these modelling problems with a variety of techniques that include ordinary and partial differential equations, delay differential equations, agent-base modelling, and discrete difference equations.

Why did you chose this career?
I only started considering mathematical biology as a PhD student, and from the beginning I found this interdisciplinary are very fascinating.  Attacking new problems often required a lot of original thinking and building new models almost from scratch.  In addition, I found it stimulating to interact regularly with biologist, medical doctors, and anthropologists.  A career as an academic has continued to give me opportunities to interact with researchers all over the world and continually learn about new ideas.  I have also found many great friends and colleagues over the years.

Can you tell us about the highlight of your career so far?
One of the most fulfilling and exciting aspects of my career has been the opportunity to work with talented and creative research students, particularly honours, masters, and PhD students.  Interacting with students has broadened the range of how I think about problems and modelling and has enabled me to develop new skills in mentoring and guiding research, rather than exclusively working on problems myself.