Bruno Beltran

Brief biography

Bruno Beltran is a Goldwater scholar, LA-STEM scholar, HHMI EXROP scholar, and undergraduate mathematics and computational science student at Louisiana State University. His interests lie in applied mathematics, especially applications in computational and quantitative biology. Bruno has worked at Arizona State University under Dr. Castillo-Chavez in population dynamics and modeling aneurysm formation; he worked at Yale modeling the chemical processes that allow chromosome segregation in C. crescentus under Dr. Jacobs-Wagner. At LSU, he has done work on approximating the matrix exponential and the Laplace transform under Dr. Neubrander. He currently serves as Linux sysadmin for the Nandakumar lab, as a private tutor, and is working on the en0vation grant under Dr. Robert Kooima to design state of the art 3D interfaces, all while taking a heavy graduate math course load. He has presented his work with posters at LSU's 2012 Undergraduate Research Conference, SACNAS 2012, and the SIAM Mid-Atlantic Student Conference. He has given talks at the 2013 JMM, LSU's 2012 and 2013 Undergraduate Research Conferences, the 2013 SIAM Mid-Atlantic Student Conference (at which he was invited to chair a session), and Brown's 2013 SUMS Research Conference. He was invited to give a talk on his research with Dr. Neubrander for a 2013 spring colloquium series at Humboldt State University.

Summary of current and future projects

The research I was involved in last summer at Yale is close to being ready for submission to an academic journal. I have taken some time off of my work with Dr. Nandakumar to focus on this and my work with Dr. Robert Kooima on experimental interface design. I will be building a video game to exposit my work with Dr. Kooima before leaving for Imperial College London for the summer, where I will work on problems in the unification of microfluidics at various scales.

Mathematical and educational activities

My mentors can be said to have formed an exact sequence, iteratively evincing my dream of eventually leading an interdisciplinary research group where I can apply my training in mathematics and computation to tackle problems in quantitative biology. Beginning my first semester at LSU, each of my mentors' disparate strengths and advice pushed me squarely into the kernel of the next, allowing me to systematically hone my interests while acquiring experience in diverse areas from approximating operator semigroups to modeling chemical signals that facilitate chromosome segregation. My background working with mathematicians, engineers, and physicists has left me ideally poised to approach my interests in biology with an interdisciplinary perspective; it has shown me how diverse problems can all be successfully approached from the unified framework of mathematical modeling. [The reader may jump to last paragraph without loss of cohesion.]

Having garnered an introduction into formal mathematics from MIT's OpenCourseWare offerings in high school, I dove into research weeks after arriving at LSU under the tutelage of Dr. Frank Neubrander. My first research project involved investigating whether new error estimates for approximating operator semigroups could be applied to more efficiently to calculate the matrix exponential, an object ubiquitous in scientific computation. Dr. Neubrander's patient exposition allowed me to fall in love with the challenges inherent in decomposing a research problem into manageable components. Specifically, I was tasked with implementing the new algorithms using Matlab, Mathematica, and pure C, and testing them for efficiency and accuracy. Although the existing methods were marginally more efficient on modern architectures, the experience of challenging the cutting edge in scientific computation primed my interest in computational science, concluding in a poster presentation at LSU's 2012 Undergraduate Research Conference.

Having focused my sights on mathematical research, I participated in the Mathematical and Theoretical Biology Institute's REU under Dr. Carlos Castillo-Chavez at Arizona State University the summer after my freshman year. Because of Dr. Castillo-Chavez's inspirational leadership and example as both a mathematician and a spokesperson, the summer experience became far more than the first experience with interdisciplinary research it was designed to be. My team (composed of three undergraduate mathematicians and a biology major) independently developed a research question pertaining to aneurysm formation and used the C++-based open source fluidics toolkit OpenFOAM to investigate whether turbulence caused by aneurysms in the Circle of Willis might influence downstream secondary aneurysm formation. A technical report on our findings was printed in the REU's internal journal. Beyond the research itself, however, I learned the importance of championing my work, giving talks at the 2013 JMM and Brown's 2013 SUMS Conference, chairing talks and presenting at the Mid-Atlantic SIAM meeting, and presenting a poster on my work at SACNAS.

Returning to LSU my sophomore year, I enrolled in graduate math classes while continuing research with Dr. Neubrander exploring applications of his work in semigroups to the computation of the Laplace transform. I again implemented and tested the new algorithms in Matlab, Mathematica, and pure C. Although they were once again were marginally less efficient than existing methods, it was for my talk on this work that I won a presentation award at LSU's 2013 Undergraduate Research Conference. I was also personally invited to give my hour-long presentation on this work for a colloquium series at Humboldt State University (a California State University).

The following summer, I was accepted into the Howard Hughes Medical Institute's EXROP program to work at Yale University under Dr. Christine Jacobs-Wagner. It was at Yale, through creating, testing, and applying mathematical models for post-replication chromosome segregation in C. crescentus, that I realized that my future was in quantitative biology. I worked alongside chemists, physicists, and biologists, and I reveled in the challenge of communicating my mathematical perspective to everyone in my lab. With the help of Dr. Jacobs-Wagner and my friend Dr. Ivan Surovtsev, I learned what it takes to succeed in biological research; I learned what it takes to convince people from various backgrounds of the utility of a mathematical perspective, a perspective of which they are often inordinately skeptical. I learned what it takes to build models that agree both quantitatively with the data you are studying and qualitatively with the established ideas of the field. We are now working on getting a paper written including the models I built over the summer.

Now that I have returned to LSU once again, it may seem that I have put aside my interests in biological research to further pursue studies in mathematics, given my heavy graduate-level course load. In actuality, I am working my way through Wade's Organic Chemistry, Watson's Molecular Biology of the Gene, and books on the cell and neuroscience in my spare time, a preparation reminiscent of my high school days learning on ocw.mit.edu that so successfully prepared me for my studies of mathematics. Further, I will be travelling to Imperial College London over the summer in preparation for my future in biological research by partaking in research in microfluidics, a phenomenon integral to almost all cellular mechanisms.

Dr. Neubrander narrowed my interests to mathematics. Dr. Castillo-Chavez taught me to be a spokesperson. Dr. Jacobs-Wagner's lab showed me the joy of applying mathematics to cutting-edge problems in quantitative biology. Individually the morphisms on my character that these influences induced have images in areas foreign to each other. However, in combination, they have provided a holistic sampling of important perspectives, all preparing me for a successful career as a researcher in computational and quantitative biology.