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Braun & Driscoll awarded NSF grant

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Profs Richard Braun and Tobin Driscoll have been awarded a National Science Foundation grant to study the dynamics of the tear film on the eye.  The $375,000 grant lasts for three years beginning in August 2014; the group has received continuous funding to study this subject from the NSF since 2006. The new award is entitled "Collaborative Research: Tear Film Dynamics: Modeling, Blinking, and Computation," and it is a collaborative with a separate grant awarded to former group member and UD alumna Prof. Kara Maki at the Rochester Institute of Technology. 

According to data from 2008, nearly 5 million Americans age 50 or older suffer from moderate to severe dry eye syndrome (DES). Symptoms include discomfort and reduced visual function. The dynamics of the tear film is thought to be critical in the development of DES; rapid evaporation and/or insufficient tears are thought to cause chronic irritation leading to DES. Both of these mechanisms can lead to elevated saltiness (osmolarity), which is believed to be a key variable in understanding the irritation to the eye surface. The results from this project will yield quantitative insight into tear film flows and osmolarity dynamics that may impact how ocular scientists interpret their data.  The team will continue to work closely with leading optometrists to achieve this goal, having already co-authored more than a dozen papers with optometry collaborators. 

Investigators based at UD and RIT will collaborate to study tear film dynamics in an effort to better understand its function and to help clarify causes and consequences of DES. The results will help explain and visualize the complex tear motion during blinking and to quantify the variability of critical quantities such as tear osmolarity. To do so, new tear film models consisting of nonlinear coupled high-order partial differential equations on moving, two-dimensional eye-shaped domains will be formulated using a variety of methods from applied mathematics and mechanics. The team will then develop two new computational techniques to solve the models. Current tear film models will be advanced by incorporating increasingly challenging effects of evaporation and lipid layer motion on complex moving domains. The project will draw upon the thin liquid film literature and from close consultation with experimental optometrists to make informed decisions about mathematical modeling, comparison with in vivo experimental data, and sensible interpretation of the results. 

This award by the Mathematical Biology Program in the Division of Mathematical Sciences is co-funded by the Fluid Dynamics Program in the Division of Chemical, Bioengineering, Environmental, and Transport Systems.

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Professors Braun and Driscoll awarded NSF grant to study mathematical models for the tear film.
8/20/2014
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