About Us


The Center for Mathematical Biology is the focal point for interdisciplinary research in mathematics and biology at the University of Pennsylvania. The research interests of the core members of Center range from ecology and evolutionary genetics to physiology and biophysics, on the one hand, and game theory, probability, partial differential equations and numerical analysis on the other.

The Simons Postdoctoral Fellows are a central part of the Center. The fellows are intellectually independent, but work together with core members. Short and long-term visitors are invited as speakers in a regular seminar series, as well as to participate in focused workshops on research topics of current interest.

Major funding for the Center comes from the Math + X grant awarded to the University of Pennsylvania through the Simons Foundation.








Yoichiro Mori
Calabi-Simons Professor of Mathematics and Biology

Dr. Mori works in mathematical biophysics and physiology. In particular, I am interested in how ionic electrodiffusion and fluid mechanics, and soft condensed matter physics more generally, shape physiological responses such as cell motility, cell polarization and (electrical) signal propagation. The study of such problems lead naturally to interesting and often novel problems in the analysis and numerical analysis of (partial) differential equations, which is also an important aspect of my research program.

Joshua Plotkin
Walter H. and Leonore C. Annenberg Professor of the Natural Sciences

Dr. Plotkin’s group uses mathematics and computation to study questions in evolutionary biology and ecology. Research in the group is concerned primarily with adaptation in populations. Related interests include the evolution of robustness and adaptability, the evolutionary ecology of viral populations, the evolution of cooperation, conflict, coalitions, and group decision-making.



Erol Akcay
Associate Professor of Biology

Dr. Akçay studies the theory of social evolution in context ranging from microbial ecology to human cultural evolution. He uses a combination of mathematical modeling, agent-based simulations, and comparative analyses to understand the evolutionary dynamics of social phenomena across the tree of life. Within this broad area, his current interests include the co-evolution of social structure, dynamics of cumulative culture and ecological adaptation in human societies, evolution of social norms, and evolution and ecology of symbioses, among other topics. 

Mark Goulian
Charles and William L. Day Distinguished Professor in the Natural Sciences

The Goulian lab is broadly interested in the regulatory circuits that enable bacteria to sense and respond to their environment. He develops simple mathematical models to understand how these systems function and to develop testable predictions to guide experiments. He is also interested in how regulatory circuits evolve and their natural variation within and between species.

Ryan Hynd
Associate Professor of Mathematics

Dr. Hynd’s primary interest is in partial differential equations which arise in physical and phenomenological models.  I’m particularly interested in problems involving geometry, probability and also especially optimization. I usually employ mathematical analysis in attempts to uncover properties of solutions. On occasion, I’ll also use numerical methods to approximate related quantities of interest.

Eleni Katifori
Associate Professor, Department of Physics & Astronomy

Dr. Katifori’s group is generally interested in understanding the geometrical and topological principles governing the form and function of living organisms. They primarily focus on theoretical questions inspired by and related to biological transport networks such as the mammalian and plant vasculature. The group tries to understand how living flow networks function, how they develop, what determines their structure and to what extent evolution has driven them to optimality.

Junhyong Kim
Patricia M. Williams Term Professor and Chair, Biology

Dr, Kim is interested in models of development and evolution of development; geometry of data analysis; and, graphical models. He has worked on mathematical properties of tree-graph models for phylogenies, statistics of spatial processes and geometrical shape, geometrical representation of biological data, and developmental dynamics. He also carries out empirical research in single cell biology applied to problems in cell differentiation and cell phenotypes.

Arnold Mathijssen
Assistant Professor, Department of Physics & Astronomy

The Mathijssen lab is interested in exploring the physics of life: we combine experimental and theoretical techniques across the disciplines of physics and biology. Our main goals are to unravel the physics of pathogens, to design biomedical materials, and understand the collective functionality of living systems out of equilibrium. Recent themes include ultra-fast biology and hydrodynamic communication (Nature 2019), pathogen clearance in the airways (Nature Physics 2020), and bacterial contamination dynamics (Nature Communications 2019), and designing microrobotic active carpets (Advanced Science 2021).

Robin Pemantle
Merriam Term Professor of Mathematics

Robin Pemantle does research in probability and combinatorics.Within probability, Pemantle works on a variety of discreteprobability models, e.g., recently, error correcting in noisy channels, invasion percolation, fractal trees, fault detection, random fitness landscapes. In combinatorics, Pemantle works on ACSV (analytic combinatoricsin several variables), an enumeration technique which has been applied to diverse areas such as random walks, quantum walks, lattice tilings and search trees.

Robert Strain
Professor of Mathematics

Dr. Strain works in the field of mathematical analysis and studies partial differential equations. He has proven results on partial differential equations from diverse areas including fluid dynamics, kinetic theory, and materials science. Strain does research on problems involving local and global existence and uniqueness of solutions, large time sharp asymptotic behavior and convergence to equilibrium, finite time blow up, and ill-posedness of solutions. He has studied numerous physically motivated partial differential equations including the incompressible Navier-Stokes equations, the relativistic Euler system, the Muskat problem, the Boltzmann and Landau equation under Newtonian mechanics or special-relativity and the Vlasov equations.

Sarah Tishkoff
David and Lyn Silfen University Professor Departments of Genetics and Biology

Dr. Tishkoff studies genomic and phenotypic variation in ethnically diverse Africans. Her research combines field work, laboratory research, and computational methods to examine African population history, human adaptation, and the genetic basis of variable complex traits including disease risk.  She uses an integrative genomics approach, incorporating data from genomics, transcriptomics, epigenomics, metabolomics, and the gut microbiome to identify the role of genetics and environment on variable traits in human populations. 

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