James Murray - AEI Speakers Bureau

James Murray Biography

James Murray

*Dr. James Murray Ph.D. (St. Andrews), D.Sc. (Oxford) has had faculty appointments at Harvard, University of Michigan, New York University, University of Washington, University College London and for 25 years at the University of Oxford. Dr. James Murray has had numerous visiting appointments at universities around the world including University of Paris, National Tsing Hua University, MIT, Caltech, University of Florence and University of Heidelberg. At the University of Oxford where he was the Founding Director of the prestigious Centre for Mathematical Biology. Dr. James Murray is Emeritus Professor of Mathematical Biology at the University of Oxford and also Emeritus Professor of Applied Mathematics at the University of Washington. He is now Senior Scholar at Princeton University.

Dr. Murray's research is in the practical application of mathematics to the biological and medical sciences and he has written several books (some translated into Russian and Polish) and published more than 200 articles in peer reviewed prestigious international journals. Dr. James Murray has worked and published on a very wide range of topics such as enhancing brain tumor imaging and highlighting problems with current treatments, marital interaction and divorce prediction in which his predictions for divorce of newly married couples in a 12 year longitudinal study was 94%, control of rabies epidemics, wound healing and scar formation, the benefits of intertribal warfare, how the leopard gets its spots, how sex determination in alligators and crocodiles has let them survive, the benefits of cannibalism, the connection between badgers and bovine tuberculosis, mechanisms of biological pattern formation in development, making evolution move backwords and other topics. James Murray is regularly invited to give keynote lectures at meetings around the world and has wide experience giving lectures to the general public. James Murray has given, on average 20 lectures a year in Japan, Taiwan, India, Turkey, Canada, US, and Europe since about 1970. He has supervised more than 50 doctoral and post-doctoral students.

James Murray has received numerous honors. He is a Fellow of the Royal Society (FRS), Fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh (FRSE), Foreign Member of the French Academy. He has Honorary Doctorates from the University of St. Andrews, Scotland; University of Strathclyde, Scotland; University of Milan, Italy; University of Waterloo, Canada. A small selection of other honors and prizes are: Guggenheim Fellow in Paris; President (the 1st), European Society for Mathematical and Theoretical Biology; Pinkham Lecture, Swedish Hospital, Seattle; University of Washington donor endowed professorship in perpetuity, the James Murray Chair of Applied Mathematics in Neuropathology; Royal Society Bakerian Medal and Prize Lecture 2009 (a public lecture given yearly since 1750) and others.

James Murray has appeared in various television programs such as WQED Pittsburgh Life By The Numbers: Math Like You've Never Seen It Before; Korean Public Television (EBS) 2009 (a 3 hour series on the mathematical and biological work of Alan M. Turing 1912-1954 and James D. Murray).

James Murray has had several hundred international radio and media interviews in the past 20 years, most of these on his work on marital interaction and divorce prediction, brain tumors, epidemics, biological pattern formation, epidemics and animal coat patterns.

James Murray Topics

  • The Marriage Equation: A practical theory for predicting divorce and a scientifically-based marital therapy
    The rise in divorce rates in developed countries is a widespread but poorly understood phenomenon. We developed a marital interaction model, which is surprisingly predictive and easily understood model, based on only a few parameters descriptive of specific marital interaction patterns. These parameters characterize differences between different types of stable couples whose marriages are likely to last from two types of unstable couples likely to divorce. In a 12 year longitudinal study on a large number of newly married couples the model predicted divorce with an accuracy of 94%. It has helped design new scientifically-based intervention strategies for troubled marriages which are proving very successful in clinical practice.
  • How the leopard gets its spots
    The most exciting, challenging, important and fundamental scientific problems at the present time (and for the foreseeable future) are in the biomedical sciences. One of these is the formation of biological pattern and form. Although genes play a role in controlling pattern the actual processes that create it are unknown. Much experimental and theoretical research is directed towards determining these mechanisms which, for example, form the cartilage patterns in our hand, the hair patterning on our head, the wing patterns on butterflies and the stripes on alligators. Until we understand the basic pattern formation processes which occur during development we shall not be able to understand the causes of birth abnormalities, how the environment affects evolution and so on. I describe how the new interdisciplinary approach to such problems suggests certain general principles and indicate exciting research avenues which may reveal these complex processes. By way of example the talk shall mainly focus on the complex, diverse and beautiful coat patterns on animals.
  • Probing the mysteries of Nature's patterns: sex and the single alligator (some like it hot) and other vignettes from the world of interdisciplinary s
    Interdisciplinary science is an ever expanding and very exciting discipline with a vast number of problems that benefit from such science. I describe several of these. For example, the sex ratio of alligators and crocodiles is strongly biased towards females, often as high as 10 females to 1 male rather than the usual 1:1. I show why it is the key element in their survival for the past 63 million years. Developmental laws are pattern formation processes in embryonic development and the new mathematical models developed with experimentalists have been immensely successful in understanding, for example, embryonic deformities, aspects of evolution and how it resulted in a new and revolutionary scar free wound healing.
  • Cancer therapy and its application to brain tumors and prostate cancer: enhancing imaging techniques & highlighting inadequacies of current therapies
    The prognosis for patients with high-grade brain tumors is grim and the various treatment protocols such as surgery and radiation unfortunately do not work. I describe and demonstrate a simple easily understood practical model based on individual patient data and brain scans, to quantify the spatio-temporal growth of brain tumors. Even with very early diagnosis, few tumors benefit from a wide surgical removal. Analysis of the model, as well as demonstrating why surgery generally fails, indicates why tumor regrowth is often multi-focal. Among other things the simulations graphically show how difficult it is to decide on the tumor volume to be treated and suggest why such treatments inevitably have so little success. The analysis also suggests how to estimate life expectancy. The work also shows that the accepted dogma that such tumor growth is unpredictable is totally wrong. On the positive side, the model shows how it is possible to use a patient's past record to suggest specific treatment protocols and calculate an index of treatment efficacy, predicted as opposed to actual and the kind of questions to ask your doctor. I shall describe certain new information on prostate cancer and its current relevance to early diagnosis.
  • Modeling the spread of epidemics, animal territory formation and its justification for inter-tribal warfare
    The spread of communicable diseases, from the Black Death to AIDS, involves the interaction of various population groups. The spread of rumors shares many of the same features. I describe some of the basic principles for constructing quantitative models from which we can extract useful and sometimes unexpected and counterintuitive information. Although the methodology is general, by way of example I apply it to the spatial spread of rabies among foxes to quantify its progress into a rabies free area. I show how to include various control measures into the model to try and stop the spatial spread of the disease and in particular the idea of rabies `break'. Although the specific epidemic investigated is the current rabies epidemic in Europe, the ideas behind this type of model equally apply to the spread of various pests, a variety of epidemics such as that moving up the eat coast of America. I describe wolf pack territory formation and how, as a consequence, wolves and their prey survive. Some data from inter-tribal warfare between the Northwest Sioux and Chippewa Indians from c1780-1850 provides some surprising corroborative evidence for the modeling concepts and conclusions.
  • Why are there no three-headed monsters?
    Although the development of spatial pattern and form is a central issue in embryology the mechanisms that generate them are still unknown. Genes do not create pattern. The interdisciplinary modelling challenge is to discover the key biological processes and how they are orchestrated to produce coherent and stable patterns during embryogenesis. I describe the basic features a pattern formation mechanism must have and then apply the concepts to specific developmental problems. One consequence of the research is that specific developmental constraints are present during embryogenesis which gives rise to developmental laws of bone formation and these help to explain how embryonic deformities can occur and which are not possible. Another example is associated with stripe formation in alligators and why alligators are relevant to human embryology. I describe some of the experimental work that was stimulated by the mathematical predictions.


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