A question & answer session to get to know the 2022 GG Scholar  Casey O’Brien, 1st year graduate student in the Biomathematics Department.

What aspect of genetics and/or genomics most interests you?

I was initially drawn in by the punnet squares and puzzles that were introduced in the first genetics class I took. These puzzles were the first real connection I saw between two of my favorite fields: math and biology. Later, when I got into genomics, I was able to draw in computer science, which is another interest of mine.

What (or Who) influenced you to go into your field of study?

My main influence to go into Mathematical Biology was Dr. Bard Ermentrout. He was the first professor I did research with and I took several interesting classes with him. He showed me how interesting applying my interest in math to the field of biology could be.

Who or what do you hope benefits from your research?

I hope my research can benefit communities endangered by endemic diseases and that one day a model I help write will lead to an effective, long-term control measure mitigating the damage done by an endemic disease.

How can your research be used to inform decision makers (e.g. policy makers, resource managers, health practitioners, K12 educators, etc etc)?

Mathematical models can help inform policy makers and community leaders about the potential affects of implementing control measures. They can help predict the potential risks and also the potential benefits.

What do you think is the most pressing issue or problem in your field of study?

I think the most pressing issue in gene drive research is public outreach. It is important to educate communities about what it is and what it’s not, so that people can make informed decisions about its implementation.

How do you expect the GG Scholars program to impact your work?

Through GG Scholars I have been able to make connections with many other graduate students and professors from fields that I would not normally have exposure to. These connections will help me form collaborations with people from a variety of adjacent fields.

How would you describe your research interests to a 3rd grader?

I am interested in using math as a prediction tool to help people make decisions about how to best solve problems. I am also interested in using mathematical models to understand how biological processes work.

What’s your dream job?

I would like to eventually go into academia in a role where I can conduct my research while also teaching classes to undergraduate students who might be new to my field.