MBI EMPHASIS SEMESTER ON CONTROL IN BIOLOGY AND MEDICINE: FALL 2017
The traditional boundaries between mathematics, engineering, and the life sciences are rapidly blurring as interdisciplinary researchers develop new tools and adapt existing methods to explore fundamental questions and practical problems in biology and medicine.
Approaches from control theory are having a growing impact on the study of biological systems and the development of new medical applications. This includes considering how a system's dynamical behavior is influenced by inputs and feedback, for instance how to design such inputs to achieve the desired outcomes even in the presence of uncertainty, heterogeneity, and noise. Depending on the problem of interest, techniques from one or more of the following sub-areas of control theory may be important: linear systems theory, nonlinear control, robust control, hybrid control, optimal control, stochastic control, system identification, optimization, estimation, and filtering. This emphasis semester will focus on three broad areas for which the methods of control theory have already shown particular promise and are expected to continue to make significant contributions:
- Workshop 1 will be on the control and modulation of neuronal and motor systems. This includes the study of rhythmic activity patterns in the brain that underlie essential functions such locomotion, respiration, and circadian activity, or which arise in pathological situations such as epilepsy and Parkinson's disease. The workshop will also encompass control of non-oscillatory motor behaviors such as maintaining posture and generating specialized non-repetitive movements.
- Workshop 2 will be on the control of cellular and molecular systems. This includes the use of control theory to understand and modulate gene expression and cell signaling. It will also consider synthetic biology, which is the design of cellular regulatory systems to accomplish desired outcomes.
- Workshop 3 will be on the control of disease using personalized medicine. This will address how control theory, particularly system identification and robust control, can be used to overcome the challenges of designing drug- and device-based medical treatments given the individual variability within a patient population.
- Workshop 4 will be on sensori-motor control of animals and robots. Humans and other animals still typically outperform robots in many movement tasks -- in versatility, stability, robustness, and energy consumption. How do humans and other animals achieve such performance? This workshop will be attended by researchers studying humans and non-human animals and those that try to build robots, performing movements of different types.
The workshops will bring together control theorists, applied mathematicians, experimental biologists, and clinicians to share ideas and to report on the challenges that they face in investigating various important biological and medical applications. It will also be a chance for new collaborations to form, which will help to further blur the traditional boundaries between mathematics, engineering, and the life sciences.