Monday November 28, 2016

Schraut Memorial Lecture

Mathematics plays a growing role in understanding and curing disease, as the discovery and development of new drugs has shifted during the last two decades from largely empirical to heavily data driven.

More than 100 University of Dayton students, faculty and alumni heard David Diller ’90 discuss the application of computational and mathematical techniques to the discovery of new candidate medications this month at the 17th annual Kenneth C. Schraut Memorial Lecture.

Hosted by the department of mathematics, Diller’s lecture Nov. 12 at the Science Center auditorium was held in conjunction with the department’s 27th Biennial Alumni Career Seminar, which connects University alumni with undergraduate students interested in mathematics.

Diller, who holds a bachelor’s degree in mathematics from the University of Dayton and a doctorate in mathematics from Northwestern University, is vice president for computational biology at CMD Bioscience in New Haven, Connecticut. He has worked at pharmaceutical, biotech and startup companies and applied aspects of molecular modeling and informatics to problems in drug discovery.

His presentation addressed the challenges of moving from the highly structured discipline of mathematics to the more ambiguous world of biology, how molecular modeling impacts new drug design, and how mathematics could play an important role in understanding biomolecular phenomena.

“David showed how mathematics can make a contribution to the drug discovery and development process,” said Wiebke Diestelkamp, professor and chair of the department of mathematics. “This was a great opportunity for our students to see that mathematics is very useful in important areas of science.”

Diller’s lecture was followed by a panel of 12 University of Dayton alumni and mathematics professor Alan Veliz-Cuba discussing how studies in the mathematical sciences relate to their varied career paths. The alumni, whose graduation years ranged from 1968 to 2016, included Neil Bitzenhofer ’69, a retired Boston Scientific software engineer; Vincent Velten ’82, a technical advisor at the Air Force Research Laboratory; Yi Zhao ’11, a postdoctoral research associate in civil and environmental engineering at Princeton University; and Katherine Campbell ’15, a pension actuary with Aon Hewitt.

Students were invited to speak with the panelists individually to network and seek career advice in breakout sessions on topics that included actuarial science, business, engineering, financial engineering, information technology, statistics, teaching and graduate school preparation.

“Our students very much appreciate the opportunity to talk to our alums and ask their advice,” Diestelkamp said. “This is an excellent way to network with people who have experience in fields our students are interested in.”

The Schraut Lecture was endowed in memory of Kenneth “Doc” Schraut, a mathematics faculty member from 1940 to 1978, who served as mathematics department chair from 1954 to 1970.

Schraut launched the Biennial Alumni Career Seminar in 1964. Held in even-numbered years, the seminar now alternates with the Undergraduate Mathematics Day conference, which is anchored by the Schraut Lecture. The seminar is generously supported by alumni donations.

Faculty members Paul Eloe and Jon Brown served as the organizing team, with support from administrative assistant Vicki Withrow.

- Dave Larsen, communication coordinator, College of Arts and Sciences

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