art of life modeling

This article is from the Monthly Science et Avenir – La Recherche n°901, dated March 2022.

There is math in life science! This came before the world with the Covid-19 pandemic. But it’s not just exponential in life.

important role of mathematics

The complexity of life makes it an inexhaustible source of problems facing humanity, whether to treat or prevent disease, to preserve or restore ecosystems, etc. Their resolution includes the understanding and prediction of micro- or large-scale events, as well as the analysis of data produced by laboratories. It works at the interface between biology, medicine, physics, computer science and mathematics. If all these subjects play a role in what is called quantitative biology, then mathematics is important in the modeling part: it is a question of formalizing hypotheses and drawing irrefutable conclusions.

find a common language

As with all interdisciplinary research, researchers must first find a common language. Then, once the problem has arisen, they have to make a compromise between models that are too coarse, such as those based on R alone in epidemiology, and models that are too detailed, those that are artificial or those that we Do not know how to measure. Finally, the models must be compared with reality to test the validity of the hypothesis. Life modeling is an art, which is in full swing.

By sylvie benzoniDirector of the Henri-Poincaré Institute in Paris

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