Melinda K. Duncan, Ph.D.Professor and Graduate Program Director
Department of Biological Sciences
University of Delaware
My laboratory is interested in understanding whether basement membranes serve as meaningful barriers between tissues, particularly for the ocular lens since it is completely surrounded by a thick basement membrane that can be 26 microns thick in humans. New advances in lasers and microscopes made it theoretically possible to answer this question with FRAP (fluorescence recovery after photobleaching); however, the computational models available from the equipment manufacturer to analyze the data did not use assumptions valid for our application. My week at the 2007 MPI was a lot of fun since the mathematicians assigned to my problem treated it as a "math puzzle" and were highly engaged in finding the solution even though it did not require any cutting edge pure math to solve. The MPI meeting was also highly productive since it resulted in both a mathematical description of my system and a MatLab script using this description capable of quantitatively determining diffusion behavior within the lens capsule. Notably, around the same time, we went to a FRAP methods development workshop and found it to be a waste of time since no one participating was able to reassess the underlying models used to analyze FRAP data. I enthusiastically recommend the MPI workshop to anyone with a practical problem needing a mathematical solution.