[MUSIC] Welcome back to our course. This Professor Michael Dennin here at UC Irvine. Today, we have the pleasure of talking to Professor Fred Wan. He's from our Math Department here, but he does both math and biology seems to be a running theme, we have a lot of people you may notice who are interdisciplinary, they work in more than one field. So, let's get a sense of what professor Wan does in this area. >> Thank you, Mike, for giving me the opportunity to participate in your program. >> So Fred, you have this background where you're in math, but you also work on biological problems. How do you pick problems and how to you recognize problems in biology that are relevant to math and math can be used to solve? >> As far as your question is concerned, all of my life I've always been much, much more interested in mathematics, that give insights or answers questions to mathematical issues. So, such as, what's the best way to get to Mars? Or how do you not over-fish, and still have enough consumption? Things like this. Now, as far as how does mathematic can be used for such a problem, there are two parts to the answer. One is that any well posed question from daily life or from any scientific problem can always be modeled mathematically in some kind of mathematical relationship. The only question is what can you do with it? And what can you do with it, is that you can apply no mathematics to it, develop new mathematics for it, or when you get stuck, completely stuck, you simplify the problem. Of course, you can always simplify it to a certain level until the problem's still meaningful to the people who are interested in the answer. So, how far can you go, and simplify, and how you might do that is the challenge. And what makes the difference between a skilled mathematician and one who's not is the ability to pick the right problem at the right level that you can solve. >> It'd be interesting to know, Fred, a little bit of given the whole field and area of complexity in biology, how did you really come to this particular subject? What's your interest in it? >> We >> Have always been, as someone who's interested in non-mathematical issues, we've always been talking to people, scientists, engineers, and laymen about various kinds of issue of interest to them, including economics and politics. So, when you >> Have an opportunity to interact with your colleagues around campus, such as serving on different committees. You might end up talking to them about their scientific research. So, that's how we got to this area. We happened to be sitting on a committee with Arthur Lander and Larry Marsh. >> Ching LI and I. And we got talking and they say oh, we have a problem and we could use so mathematical help. So, we got together and that's how we got started. And this is the same throughout my life. I've talked to economists, who are also interested in Issues that, are mathematically oriented, and engineers, of course. >> I think another question Fredfe that would be of interest for the audience or the students taking the course is, there's this big theme in emergent phenomena, you have a particular topic in it you're going to be talking to us about >> How do you see the connection between your topic and emergence phenomena? >> Well, as you see, the talk is about complex patterns, and complex patterns in biological sciences are less well understood than those of physical sciences, and other areas. >> So, what we do is formulate theories about them, and try to extract information, and give some insight to the issue at hand. And along with many other people we come up with some theories which might explain what's observed. But also predict what is possible in the moment when it happen. So, as you see in one of my talks, the theory that Alan Turing started, many of us follow, come up with prediction that we didn't expect to be possible. So eventually, you've got to come up with the emergent patterns that we have not seen before. And this is how the theory for pattern formation. Related to emergent phenomena. >> As students go through your module, one thing we're gonna want them looking for is what's the big surprise? What's the thing they should be shocked by, and should have taken them like oh, wow, that happens? Can you kinda tell us a little bit about the surprise that's coming up in your segment? >> And we'll give an example of that in my talk at the end. Showing that the theory predict by pattern that we don't expect to see in real life, and yet you, people when, once we have that information, people will begin to look around and eventually found it in some obscure place in Africa. There are a pattern of an animal that couldn't, couldn't possibly, kind of incredible that it happened. But that's how he wants part of it. The other thing is that, much more subtle, is the surprise in the mathematical and the scientific aspect of it. An example would be, that you are familiar with, is the idea of 4 year decomposition. Any complex pattern can be decomposed, can be represented as a combination of some basic components, and from this kind of representation you are able to do a lot more With the phenomena then you would not. So, the surprise is that, how would a complex phenomena can be represented, can be a combination of some very simple set of basic components. And that question is actually a lot less, a lot more subtle than it appears in misty eyes. If you think of a profile on the line, a pattern on the line, you can match every point on the line with what the profile is with one equation, with one component. But of the exhaust of all the countable infinite number of components in your basic set. You're still left with many points along that line does not match. So, the fact that it can be done in spite of that is a big, big surprise. Those are the kind of surprises a mathematician and scientist appreciate a lot more than we could explain to the layman. >> So, one of the things we like to talk about in science are fundamental principles. And often, when we do that we're talking about the behavior of small individual units of a system. We aren't really talking about this complex emergent behavior. In your opinion, do you kind of feel that the principles that show up when you look at a large system are just as fundamental as the one for the small, individual pieces? >> Well, the complex pattern can be represented by a combination of basic components. That in itself is a principle, okay? So, the many such principle in signs as you know, thus something along your area in physics, but when it comes to biology, there's no such think principle. Well, let me go back a step, go back a little bit physics has always been big on principles. Principle of Newtonian law of motion, the principle of minimum energy or stationary energy. So, these are principles that allow physics to move forward. In mathematics, we tend to talk about theorems and axioms. The axiom choice, the theorem of, fundamental theorem of calculus, all these also allow us to move forward and make progress. But with biology, as far as I can tell, the only one that they, the only thing they have is what's called the central dogma. Not a theorem, not a principle, but a dogma enunciated by Francis Crick, the one who discovered DNA structure. Now, even that dogma, the dogma says that everything goes from DNA to RNA to protein, and protein is everything about life. So, the dogma says that you always go from DNA to RNA to protein. And yet, the discovery of virus kind of put a dent into that dogma. It's now no longer always true. The virus will go quite often like HIV. Will go from RNA to DNA and then, eventually to protein. So, even with the only central dogma they have is not completely [INAUDIBLE] solid so, on the hand, you always like to look for something that is give you some unifying theme in terms of the scientific facts. So, we are working on that. We are working on that. By various means and we'll talk some more about that later. >> So, I think a nice thing to consider, we've got a lot of different faculty involved in this course, and it's good to look at what happens in other fields and get that view. So, we've got consciousness, pattern formation, chaotic dynamics, complex fluids, and how they behave, quantum mechanics coming in, so when you look at these other areas of research outside of yours, what do you see as kind of the big areas of questions, big areas that research will come to interesting answers in the future? What would you like to see answered as we go forward? >> I have worked on many things over the years. Starting with how to get to Mars, and the best possible path, the trajectory, to what is the, how do you close the Tupperware without effort. I still keep the container air tight. Then, down to things like neuron firing. So, in other words, I have always been interested in many things, so I wouldn't say a single surprise outside of biology that would excite me. Many thing does and on the hand typically, we would work on the most current problem and that tends to be the one that's most immediate at hand, and therefore, the thing that excites me the most at the moment. >> As you think and move forward in your own field and your own research in scientific career, what's that big question you'd like to be able to answer or see tackled or maybe answered by your field as a group? >> Well, quite possibly kinda answered that in the last question, but just to be more direct >> Like any researcher, we are mostly excited about what we are currently working on. So, currently I'm working on development and the issue related to development of biology. In particular, we are interested in the issue of why biological development can be so robust. >> In a time scale well below evolutionary time scale. So that, is the quest for that, is main goal at the moment, and I cannot say that it's really much bigger than other problem that I have worked on before but this is the most exciting thing, most engaging thing for me at the moment, and this go back to the issue about what are the underlying scientific principle that pertain to the complex pattern formation. And the robustness of biological development is precisely the possible principle that would To the sand of time.