Scholar of the Week

William Mather

William MatherThe Office of the Vice President for Research and Innovation recognizes William Mather, an assistant professor of physics, for unraveling the innermost secrets of cells.

Mather, a biophysicist and an instructor with the College of Science’s Integrated Science Curriculum, is an authority on queueing theory. He is among the local organizers for the annual q-bio conference at Virginia Tech Aug. 5 to Aug. 8.

The q-bio community emphasizes the integration of modeling and quantitative experimentation to understand and predict behaviors of specific cell regulatory systems, to interpret complex biological phenomena, and to elucidate general principles of cellular information processing and related biological phenomena.

All cells, from bacterial to human, must cope with limited resources to conduct a variety of tasks, from metabolism to protein production and degradation.

Studying lines, or queues, has been crucial in efforts to understand how cells deal with bottlenecks that limit the recycling of proteins.

With support of a $960,000 National Science Foundation grant, Mather extends an understanding of waiting in a line to protein “traffic jams” inside cells.

In cells, enzymes act as gatekeepers, while proteins are the customers, waiting to be recycled. Proteins in a traffic jam are either not recycled or need to find alternative pathways.

Mather’s lab studies the pathways to discover how cells naturally alleviate bottlenecks by directing their proteins to different “servers” to be recycled. The research is expected to produce quantitative models for these bottlenecks, and ultimately create new molecular tools that will allow for the construction of large, scalable bio-circuits in bacteria.

By engineering a network capable of complex dynamic behavior, Mather demonstrates the power of computational modeling for understanding and predicting biological behavior.

In 2014, the Board of Visitors named Mather the Blackwood Junior Faculty Fellow of Life Science to support and advance instruction, research, and collaboration in the life sciences with a complementary focus on the development of entrepreneurial opportunities. He will work with the Bringing Science to Market program, a collaborative effort between the College of Science and the Pamplin College of Business.

Mather joined Virginia Tech as part of the College of Science’s emerging undergraduate systems biology degree program and Integrated Science Curriculum.

He received his doctoral degree from the Georgia Tech.

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Nominate a Scholar of the Week

The goals of the Scholar of the Week are to recognize individuals while also telling people about research and scholarly activities at the university.

Recognition is based on research and/or scholarship.

Please nominate individuals — not teams, groups, or more than one person.

Please provide a sentence describing the research, scholarship, or creative work in non-technical, generally accessible language. A second sentence with an example or application is helpful.

  • Send nominations to: Beth Tranter, Chief of Staff, Office of the Vice President for Research.

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