University of Wisconsin–Milwaukee

Courses yield more than credits

Two senior math students, who enrolled in Associate Professor Gabriella Pinter’s mathematical modeling course sequence, got more than just credits toward their majors.

They were also able to pick up the same experience in applied biomath research as their younger peers who were taking Pinter’s course as part of UWM’s Undergraduate Biomath (UBM) Initiative.

Photo by Alan Magayne-Roshak
Tim Dumouchel
Tim Dumouchel writes out formulas he uses to investigate fish loads in aquaculture systems that re-circulate water. His advisers are Gabriella Pinter and Istvan Lauko (mathematics), and Russell Cuhel and Carmen Aguilar (WATER Institute).

They were also able to pick up the same experience in applied biomath research as their younger peers who were taking Pinter’s course as part of UWM’s Undergraduate Biomath (UBM) Initiative.

“I wanted to do one more thing before graduating that would help me stand out on a resume,” says Tim Dumouchel, who is modeling how certain bacteria filter waste from aquaculture systems that use recirculating water.

Dumouchel’s work describes the process in which one group of bacteria converts ammonia (fish waste) into nitrite and then another group turns the nitrite into nitrate. 

“Ammonia and nitrite are both dangerous to fish in low quantities, but it takes much more nitrate to harm the fish,” says Dumouchel. “So I’m trying to build models that predict how much of a load of fish the system can bear before water conditions become intolerable.”

Carl Giuffre, who also participated in the math modeling course sequence, is creating a low-cost “lab on a chip” device for analyzing microfluidic behavior.

Photo by Peter Jakubowski
Carl Giuffre
Carl Giuffre shows the map he has created, which tracks paramecium movements on a slide. He is conducting the research with guidance from Peter Hinow (mathematics) and Rudi Strickler (biological sciences).

Using statistics-based math, he is tracking the movements of hundreds of paramecia – tiny, single-celled organisms – on individual slides as they are attracted to or repelled by a medium at the center of the slide.

The project has given Giuffre a wider view of the role of mathematics in science.

“To a layperson, this work may seem irrelevant,” he says. “But in the year that I’ve been working on this project, the BP oil spill happened and all of a sudden these bugs on the bottom of the marine food chain are very relevant.”

—Laura Hunt