FSU mathematician elected to board of directors for renowned international scientific society

| Thu, 05/23/24
Richard Bertram
Florida State University Professor of Mathematics Richard Bertram. (Devin Bittner/FSU Arts and Sciences)

A distinguished research professor of mathematics at Florida State University has been elected to the board of a prestigious international scientific society.

Professor of Mathematics Richard Bertram, who also directs the FSU biomathematics program and serves as a graduate faculty member in the Program in Neuroscience and Institute of Molecular Biophysics, will join the Society of Mathematical Biology’s (SMB) Board of Directors for the next four years, beginning in July 2024. Bertram, a 30-year member of SMB, was elected to this role by his peers in the society.

“I’m honored to be elected to the board because I’ve been a member of SMB since the beginning of my academic career; the society hosted the very first conference I ever attended as a young graduate student in the 1990s,” Bertram said. “I’m looking forward to getting more involved in how the society runs and learning how things work behind the scenes.”

The Society for Mathematical Biology was founded in 1973 and promotes the development and dissemination of research and education at the intersection of mathematics and biological science. Board members are responsible for establishing and overseeing committees, making financial decisions for societal awards and travel funding, planning member conferences, and fostering collaborative research across math, physics and biology disciplines.

An interdisciplinary researcher at heart, Bertram’s expertise in math, data science, neuroscience and molecular biophysics strengthened his candidacy. This role will allow Bertram to build stronger relationships with fellow board members in the biomathematics field, and as the only board member with a background in neuroscience, he looks forward to encouraging opportunities for the society to expand its scope and promote new types of research.

“I also hope my presence on SMB’s board will indicate to students across the world who are looking to pursue graduate school for mathematical biology that FSU has a strong program,” Bertram said.

Bertram has for years collaborated with Michael Roper, FSU professor of chemistry and biochemistry, on research into the insulin-secreting cells of the pancreas, using mathematical modeling and experimentation to investigate how these cells, known as beta cells, coordinate actions and secrete insulin in the body. For more than 415 million people across the globe who are living with diabetes, Bertram and Roper’s research could have huge impacts on how individuals manage their insulin levels and preserve beta cells.

Funded by the National Science Foundation, Bertram collaborates with Roberto Vincis, assistant professor in the Department of Biological Science, and assistant professor Tom Needham and associate professor Martin Bauer, both from the Department of Mathematics, to investigate how taste is processed in the brain. In collaboration with assistant professors Douglas Storace in the Department of Biological Science and Bhargav Karamched in the Department of Mathematics, Bertram studies the neural basis of sense of smell. Both projects contribute to a better understanding of how our brains code information about the foods we eat and scents we enjoy, combining knowledge across biology, mathematics and neuroscience.

“I like to work in teams, and the success of most research projects depends on the team behind it; my collaborators have all been part of the ecosystem that is my work,” Bertram said. “Everywhere you go in the academic world, you have the chance to meet potential collaborators — at every conference I’ve attended, even if I don’t remember the lectures, I always remember the people I met along the way.”

Bertram earned his doctorate from FSU in 1993 and completed his postdoctoral fellowship at the National Institutes of Health. He has served as a faculty member at FSU since 2001 and has received several university awards, including the Graduate Faculty Mentor Award in 2017 and the Distinguished Research Professor Award in 2019. Bertram was named the Tam Family Professor of Mathematics in 2019 and a fellow of the Society for Mathematical Biology in 2022. He has served as the deputy editor of Mathematical Biosciences, a monthly peer-reviewed journal, since 2013 and serves on the editorial boards of the Biophysical Journal and the Bulletin of Mathematical Biology, the official publication of SMB.

“Dr. Bertram is one of the most highly recognized members of FSU’s math department, as well as being highly regarded in a field that covers a wide range of biological and mathematical areas,” said Nick Cogan, professor of mathematics and fellow SMB member. “Through my collaborations and interactions with Dr. Bertram, I have learned and incorporated some of his unique scientific and mathematical techniques into my own research. I have no doubt he will be a great member of SMB’s board and continue to heighten FSU’s visibility in academia.”

To learn more about FSU’s Department of Mathematics, visit math.fsu.edu.