The Office of the Vice President for Research recognizes Reinhard Laubenbacher, a professor at the Virginia Bioinformatics Institute and the Department of Mathematics of the College of Science, for his work in computational and mathematical systems biology.
Laubenbacher’s group primarily focuses on applied research on the systems biology of cancer, often as part of a long-standing collaboration with researchers at the Wake Forest University School of Medicine. One ongoing project seeks to identify metabolic markers for breast cancer, using cell cultures as well as patient samples as data sources. An additional project focuses on the role of changes in intracellular iron metabolism in breast cancer. The goal is a predictive mathematical model of iron metabolism in normal and malignant breast epithelial cells.
His group develops mathematical algorithms and applies them to problems in systems biology, in particular the modeling and simulation of molecular networks. The primary focus is on discrete qualitative models that do not require detailed mechanistic information such as kinetic parameters. Visual analytics play a very important part in the analysis of mathematical models, relating the research directly to the proposed project. Many of the tools his group has developed are available as web service applications, such as http://polymath.vbi.vt.edu/polynome and http://dvd.vbi.vt.edu for examples.
In 2010, Laubenbacher testified before the U.S. House Committee on Science and Technology’s Subcommittee on Research and Science Education in Washington, D.C., convened to examine the future of the biological sciences in the 21st century.
As director of the Education and Outreach Program at the VBI, Laubenbacher is involved in bioinformatics and computational biology education, with activities ranging from the K-12 level to graduate training. At the undergraduate level, he directs or co-directs several summer research programs and is involved in curriculum development issues, including publications on this topic.
He is also an adjunct professor in the department of cancer biology at Wake Forest University in Winston-Salem and is an affiliate faculty member in the Virginia Tech Wake Forest University School of Biomedical Engineering and Sciences. Prior to these appointments, Laubenbacher was a professor of mathematics at New Mexico State University. He has served as visiting faculty at Los Alamos National Laboratories, was a member of the Mathematical Science Research Institute at Berkeley, and was a visiting associate professor at Cornell University in 1990 and 1993.
He received his doctoral degree from Northwestern University.