Mosaic lecturer will discuss DNA topology

March 22, 2022 (Volume 45, Number 14)
Article by Peg West

A nationally recognized expert in DNA topology, a field which lies at the intersection of mathematics and biology, is the featured speaker for the Mosaic Lecture series.

The annual series presented by the Mathematics Department celebrates diversity in the mathematical sciences.

This year, Mariel Vazquez, professor of mathematics as well as of microbiology and molecular genetics at University of California, Davis, will present a lecture, "The Topology of Nucleic Acids." Vazquez will speak at 7 p.m. March 29 in Loutit Lecture Halls 103.

Rene Ardila, assistant professor of mathematics, noted Vazquez is also the director of the Center for the Advancement of Multicultural Perspectives at UC Davis.

"Mathematics, as an intrinsic human activity, is richer because of the work of scholars from a variety of diverse backgrounds," Ardila said. "Dr. Vazquez is not only a nationally recognized mathematician and recipient of numerous awards, but she also has been nationally recognized for her work increasing the participation of under-represented minorities in STEM."

Both Ardila and Vazquez said the lecture will be interdisciplinary in nature and accessible to students.

Vazquez said she will address the genetic code, which is contained on long, coiled DNA or RNA molecules within viruses and living organisms.

"Understanding the shape of chromosomes is key to understanding the mechanisms of viral infection and the inner workings of a cell," Vazquez said. "We use techniques from knot theory and topology, aided by discrete and computational methods, to ask questions about the topological state of a genome. I will illustrate the use of these methods with examples drawn from recent work in my group."

 

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This article was last edited on March 22, 2022 at 8:54 a.m.

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