Prof. Zahra Aminzare receives a 3-year NSF grant for Math/Biology Project

March 15, 2021
Department of Mathematics

Dr. Zahra Aminzare has been awarded a grant from the National Science Foundation. This is a joint project with Professors Kay and Eberl in the Department of Biology, University of Iowa.

All auditory receptors rely on differences in potassium concentrations between cellular compartments to power them, unlike other receptors that use sodium or calcium gradients. This project will use sensory cells in fly (Drosophila melanogaster) 'ears', which are located within its antennae, to understand the processes that lead to the development of such potassium gradients. Dr. Aminzare is the only mathematician of this team and her main role is to develop and analyze mathematical models that capture the dynamics of complex cellular systems in fly ears and shape their electrical properties.

As part of the broader impact objectives, this project will develop a set of experiments using equipment from Backyard Brains, which can be performed in high school biology classes and which will be designed to help students understand electrical current flow in living organisms, an idea which presents a challenge for many students. Summer workshops will give high school teachers the opportunity to use the equipment, which will then be made available for them to use in their classrooms. In addition, the project will expand the field of Computational Biology/Neuroscience at the University of Iowa by training undergraduate and graduate students. In particular, Dr. Aminzare will train (at least) three graduate/undergraduate students during the term of this project.