A prominent international researcher will be joining a research group at the Virginia Bioinformatics Institute at Virginia Tech during the 2006 spring semester through the Visiting Fulbright Scholar Program.

Blessilda Perez Raposa, an associate professor of Mathematics at De la Salle University in Manila, Philippines, will be working with VBI Research Professor and Virginia Tech Mathematics Professor Reinhard Laubenbacher and his Applied Discrete Mathematics Group. Raposa is developing a mathematical model for polynomial dynamical systems that can be applied to biological systems. One of the biochemical systems that she is interested in studying is the dynamics of coral reef formation.

“My country of origin, the Philippines, is home to many diverse coral reef formations,” said Raposa. “However, natural as well as human-related events pose a constant threat to the existence of coral reefs around the globe. Improved simulation and mathematical modeling approaches should allow researchers to discover new ways to allow coral to withstand natural catastrophes and the impact of detrimental human activities.”

“We are pleased to welcome a researcher who has achieved such great academic and professional achievements in the field of mathematics,” Laubenbacher said. “Dr. Raposa will bring extensive knowledge and expertise about mathematical design, graph theory and modeling that will benefit the work at the Institute. We strive to implement and maintain innovative research approaches at VBI and I believe she will be an outstanding contributor to this goal.”

Laubenbacher’s Applied Discrete Mathematics Group develops mathematical models that can be integrated into computational methods for the modeling and simulation of biological systems. This work involves the development and application of bioinformatics tools using discrete mathematics, dynamical systems theory, and symbolic computation. Mathematical methods suitable for this type of approach include computational polynomial algebra, combinatorial topology, as well as combinatorics. The group focuses on several areas, including the development of mathematical models for gene regulatory networks; the development of computer models of immune response to viral pathogens; the development of theory and applications of computer simulation to the study of networks; and the topological analysis of interaction patterns in networks.

Established in 1946, the Fulbright program is America's flagship international education exchange activity and is sponsored by the U.S. Department of State, Bureau of Education and Cultural Affairs. Since the program was established, thousands of U.S. faculty and professionals have studied, taught or conducted research abroad, and thousands of their counterparts from other countries have engaged in similar activities in the United States.

Virginia Bioinformatics Institute (VBI) at Virginia Tech has a research platform centered on understanding the “disease triangle” of host-pathogen-environment interactions. With almost $52 million in extramural research funding awarded to date, VBI researchers are working on many human, crop, and animal diseases.