Biomathematician Named First Aurelio Professor of Mathematics and Science at B.U. Nancy Kopell Honored for Groundbreaking Interdisciplinary Work

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(Boston, Mass.) — Nancy Kopell, professor of mathematics and codirector of the Center for BioDynamics (CBD), has been named Boston University’s first William Goodwin Aurelio Professor of Mathematics and Science.

“Nancy Kopell is a brilliant and highly accomplished mathematician who has applied her knowledge of nonlinear dynamics to fundamental problems in biology, chemistry, and neuroscience with great success. We are honored to have her occupy this new professorship in the College of Arts and Sciences,” says Dennis Berkey, University Provost and Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences.

Kopell cofounded CBD in 1997 with James Collins, professor of biomedical engineering, launching a multidisciplinary effort that combines advanced mathematics, biology, and engineering to gain a better understanding of physiological systems in humans and other species and to develop new medical devices and treatments.

Kopell has been a member of the faculty of Boston University’s College of Arts and Sciences since 1986. She was a Fellow of the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation from 1990-1995 and was elected to the National Academy of Sciences in 1996.

“Nancy is one of the leading biomathematicians in the world,” says Collins. “She began working on problems in mathematical biology long before it was fashionable, and based on her work mathematical biology has developed into a fertile and well recognized area of research. Importantly, Nancy is not only a research superstar; she is also a first-rate mentor for young people. She spends an enormous amount of time and energy in training the next generation of biomathematicians.”

CBD colleague John White, assistant professor of biomedical engineering, points out that her work “is a wonderful example of how close collaboration between experimentalists and theorists can lead to quantum leaps in our understanding of difficult problems.”

“This opportunity will allow me to broaden my efforts in interdisciplinary training throughout the University,” says Kopell. “It will give me the opportunity to be much more involved in collaborative activities among the faculty and students.”

The chair is named for William Goodwin Aurelio, who graduated from Boston University in 1900. He went on to become professor of Greek language and literature and also taught courses in Bible appreciation, retiring from the university in 1940. He bequeathed his entire estate of $125,000 to the college when he died in 1951. By the late 1970s the endowment had grown to allow two chairs to be established. Donald Carne-Ross was named William Goodwin Aurelio Professor of Greek Language and Literature and Paula Fredriksen was named William Goodwin Aurelio Professor for the Appreciation of Scripture. The endowment has now grown sufficiently to add a third Aurelio chair.