The University of Alabama

UA Researcher Developing Simulation Software to Aid Health Research

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — A new research grant will aid a University of Alabama math professor in developing a software package to simulate biochemical reactions within cells – an effort that could pave the way for new therapies to target disease.

The National Science Foundation awarded Dr. Roger Sidje, an associate professor of mathematics and a newly appointed associate dean in UA’s College of Arts and Sciences, an approximate $200,000 grant for the research.

The software package would feature a mathematical model that seeks to accurately mimic behaviors associated with key molecules within cells during specific situations.

“Completing such a project can allow many important biological pathways to be analyzed efficiently,” said Sidje. “Computational models are ideal in developing a better understanding of cellular mechanisms that enable, for example, some cancerous tumors to be resistant to therapies.”

Computer modeling of cellular processes allows researchers to avoid costly trial-and-error laboratory experiments in live cells, according to the grant’s abstract.

“Fast computer codes simulating different hypotheses can allow researchers to quickly and efficiently replicate mechanisms that are seen experimentally, providing opportunities for increased analyses,” Sidje said.

Through the project, Sidje will attempt to solve something called the “chemical master equation.” This equation deals with the probabilities that systems, including those within cells, have specific compositions at a particular point in time.  It arises in developing mathematical models used to represent biochemical reactions regulating metabolism within cells.

Portions of the funding will be used to communicate results through scientific conferences.

“Having an NSF-funded project will be a catalyst for mentoring undergraduates and Ph.D. students, and it will foster collaborations,” Sidje said.

UA’s College of Arts and Sciences is the University’s largest division and the largest liberal arts college in the state. Students from the College have won numerous national awards including Rhodes Scholarships, Goldwater Scholarships, Truman Scholarships, and memberships on the USA Today Academic All American Team.

The University of Alabama, a student-centered research university, is experiencing significant growth in both enrollment and academic quality. This growth, which is positively impacting the campus and the state's economy, is in keeping with UA's vision to be the university of choice for the best and brightest students. UA, the state's flagship university, is an academic community united in its commitment to enhancing the quality of life for all Alabamians.