Amherst College Math Professor to Discuss Internal Circadian Clocks at Alumni House April 19

Submitted on Wednesday, 4/11/2012, at 11:28 AM

April 11, 2012

AMHERST, Mass. — Tanya Leise, assistant professor of mathematics, will deliver the annual Max and Etta Lazerowitz Lecture on Thursday, April 19, at 4:30 p.m. in Amherst College’s Alumni House. The talk, titled “Analyzing our Internal Circadian Clocks,” will be followed by a reception. Both events are free and open to the public.

Along with most other creatures on earth, humans have internal clocks—physiological mechanisms that regulate daily rhythms of activity and sleep, says Leise. Because the clocks track time over each 24-hour day, they have been named “circadian clocks,” from the Latin circa dies, or “about a day.”

“Good health has been shown to require a fully functioning circadian clock, so scientists are interested in how it works and what can go wrong that may contribute to health problems,” Leise notes. “The nearly overwhelming wealth of experimental data has made the contributions of mathematics all the more important in establishing meaningful conclusions. In particular, mathematical modeling of clock gene expression has clarified how cells generate a stable 24-hour clock despite the presence of a great deal of molecular noise.” Leise’s most recent work, which she will discuss in her talk, shows that the clock may cleverly use this “noise” to its advantage to increase its precision.

Leise has served on the faculty of Amherst’s Department of Mathematics since 2004, teaching courses primarily in applied mathematics, including multivariable calculus, linear algebra, differential equations, mathematical modeling and wavelet analysis. Her research on biological oscillators focuses on circadian rhythms in mammals and is highly interdisciplinary in nature: she collaborates with colleagues in neuroscience and biology to design and analyze experiments that reveal details of the physiological mechanism of the circadian clock at the cellular and tissue level.

Leise earned a bachelor of science degree with honors from Stanford University and master of science and doctoral degrees from Texas A&M University.

The Lazerowitz Lectureship is awarded each year to support and encourage members of the Amherst College faculty in their scholarly work. The dean of the faculty, in conjunction with the Lecture Committee, selects a member of the faculty below the rank of full professor to receive the prize and then present a talk on his or her research. The lectureship was established in 1985 to honor the parents of the late Morris Lazerowitz, professor emeritus of philosophy at Smith College.

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