Many central concepts in biology involve notions of what is "better" or "best" in the context of evolution, physiology, and behavior. Similarly, in many applied areas of the life sciences, we are concerned with developing a "best" method to carry out drug therapies, resource harvesting, pest management, and epidemic control. I will discuss, with audience participation, what it might mean to be "best" for several problems at different levels of the biological hierarchy. This includes being clear about differences between maximization and optimization, and taking account of constraints, historical and others, on biological systems. Examples will incorporate notions of optimal control, emphasizing spatial problems.
This is a joint Colloquium hosted by the Departments of Mathematics and Integrative Biology and the Center for Genome Research and Biocomputing (CGRB). Professor Louis J. Gross is James R. Cox and Alvin and Sally Beaman Distinguished Professor of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology and Mathematics and Director of The Institute for Environmental Modeling at The University of Tennessee, Knoxville. He is also Director Emeritus of the National Institute for Mathematical and Biological Synthesis, a National Science Foundation-funded center to foster research and education at the interface between math and biology. He has co-directed several Courses and Workshops in Mathematical Ecology at the International Centre for Theoretical Physics in Trieste, Italy, served as Program Chair of the Ecological Society of America, as President of the Society for Mathematical Biology, President of the UTK Faculty Senate, Treasurer for the American Institute of Biological Sciences and as Chair of the National Research Council Committee on Education in Biocomplexity Research. He is the 2006 Distinguished Scientist awardee of the American Institute of Biological Sciences and is a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. He has served on the National Research Council Board on Life Sciences and was liaison to the NRC Standing Committee on Emerging Science for Environmental Health Decisions.