Mark S. Alber

Duncan Family Professor of Applied Mathematics
Professor of Physics
Director, Center for Biocomplexity

Calculating Biomedical Clues

Mathematical research calls to mind complex algebraic equations and intricate geometric forms. However, in the hands of Mark S. Alber, Duncan Family Professor of Applied Mathematics, concurrent professor of physics and director of the Center for Biocomplexity, mathematical research is providing important clues about blood clot formation and the spread of infection.

Alber is leading a collaboration between Notre Dame and Indiana University School of Medicine researchers that processes high resolution microscopic images using newly developed algorithms to generate quantitative outputs and metrics of internal clot structure that are compared to the predictions of the simulation.

The biomedical importance of excessive and inappropriate clotting within a vessel (thrombosis) is highlighted by the approximately 900,000 cases of venous thromboembolic disease in the United States each year resulting in roughly 300,000 deaths.

“Refined computer simulations of clot development will not only advance our basic understanding of trombogenesis, but will likely have significant impact on the development of therapeutic and diagnostic strategies,” Alber said.

Alber also is leading Notre Dame and Stanford University researchers in an effort to develop a predictive and quantitative modeling environment and computational toolkit to study bacterial motility pattern development on different surfaces, which is essential to how bacteria function in real environments.

P. aeruginosa and other swarming bacteria colonize water distribution systems, agricultural plants and animals and many medically important surfaces, including engineered materials used in joint replacement, medical imaging instruments, contact lenses and catheters,” Aber said. “Prevention of bacterial colonizations is a very important method of preventing subsequent transfer and infection to humans.”

Alber has delivered invited lectures on his work in blood clot infection and the spread of infection at Cambridge University, Oxford University, the California Institute of Technology and Stanford.

Alber will offer an undergraduate/graduate course titled “Mathematical and Computational Modeling in Biology and Physics” during the spring semester.