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Modeling Change

Modeling Change - Changing the world

We live in a time of change: Environmental issues arise from increasing population pressure, nuclear missiles are modernized with over 1 trillion dollars over the next three decades world-wide and global warming reaches unprecedented levels.

However, all these trends are highly non-linear, and, what is more, they are also strongly coupled, i.e.influencing each other with a high potential for abrupt crisis.

An answer to these trends has to be both local and global, highly resilient and with dual use (a direct benefit has to be felt already now and locally), otherwise nothing will be done by the people involved.

The Würzburg Alumni meeting 2015 is taking up this challenge (29.6.-4.7.): Alumni and experts from mathematics and biology meet and see what we can deliver as concerned scientists about these central questions on our shared future.

The goal of the conference – Modeling Change – is to deepen the understanding of biological processes and changes with global implications on biodiversity through the application of theoretical models and simulations. For that purpose, the understanding of powerful computer systems that are vital for modeling will be deepened during the project week. The conference is based on the results of the Euro-IBSA Project Week from July 2014.  

The approaches computer simulations and second mathematical methods are part of the work of the Departments of Bioinformatics (Prof. Thomas Dandekar) and Fluid Mechanics (Prof. Christian Klingenberg). The goal of the conference is to establish and increase synergies between the respective approaches in order to make modeling more reliable and sustainable. 

Thomas Dandekar has applied modeling of biodiversity to various fields of his research, including species-species interactions (pathogen and host), infectious diseases, metagenomics, metabolism, and signaling in plant communities. Regarding teaching, modeling is a part of various courses concerning global change that are held in cooperation with the Department of Ecology (Global Actions in Locally Intertwined Systems and Smart City). At Würzburg University, the Department of Bioinformatics is a driving force behind the efforts of answering questions regarding modeling of biodiversity, infections, cellular responses and cellular signaling as well as species-species interactions. This is why the research fields of bioinformatics and theoretical biology enjoy increasing popularity at the Department of Biology.

At the Department of Computer Science and Mathematics (Prof. Klingenberg and Prof. Schlömerkemper), the understanding of mathematical tools for the modeling of biological and ecological systems on the microscopic (cells) and macroscopic level (climate) is the focus of research. This work is further supported by specific input regarding remote sensing of global change (Prof. Alfio Borzi), methods of artificial intelligence (Prof. Frank Puppe), and specific knowledge of social interaction networks and their computer based description (Prof. Phuoc Trangia). 

Besides the scholarly interactions, the possibilities of international exchanges between students and scientists with Würzburg University will be discussed as well as ways of sharing the experiences of international alumni with local professors and students. The aim is to further support the establishment of new cooperations between international alumni and their former faculties, the International Office of Würzburg University, and other scientific institutions such as the University Hospital or the Fraunhofer Institute. It is planned to invite representatives from the respective institutions and governmental administrations as guest speakers to the opening ceremony of the CCTB (Center for Computational and Theoretical Biology) and the Science Awards ceremony.  

Lastly, the role of international alumni as advocates for Würzburg University and the establishment of regional meetings are part of the agenda for the project week. Overall, the goal is to strengthen the opinion of all participants that the conference is a viable contribution to possible cooperations and interactions as well as to strengthen a sustainable, interdisciplinary understanding of the involved disciplines.