Anotida Madzvamuse

Research Stay at RWTH Aachen

2013 Guest Professor in the ERS International program

Information about our Alumnus

Professor Anotida Madzvamuse is a leading expert in mathematical modeling, in particular to describe biological processes such as cell migration and their cytoskeletal dynamics. Since 2006, he has been a professor at the Department of Mathematics at the University of Sussex, Brighton, UK. He is involved in several mathematical institutions and collaborations and is founding member of the Masamu Programme and of the Africa Advanced Study Institute. In 2013, he was a Kármán Fellow the Institute of Molecular and Cellular Anatomy at RWTH Aachen, MOCA for short. In 1991, Dr. Madzvamuse received his Bachelor’s degree in Mathematics and Education Sciences from the University of Zimbabwe. In 1997 and 2000, respectively,he completed his Master’s and Doctorate at Oxford University. Between 2003 and 2006, we was assistant professor at Auburn University, Alabama.


Interview with Anotida Madzvamuse

Prof. Antonida Madzvamuse Copyright: A. Madzvamuse

During his two-week research stay at the Institute of Molecular and Cellular Anatomy, MOCA for short, Prof. Madzvamuse and his collaborators in Aachen, including research staff from the RWTH Institute of Imaging & Computer Vision and the Institute of Complex Systems/Biomechanics at Forschungszentrum Jülich, discussed analytic and 3D imaging methods of cellular mechanisms.

Can you explain in a few sentences what your main research field is all about and its importance in a wider context?

My research lies at the interface between fundamental disciplines (mathematics, physics, scientific computing) and their applications to experimental sciences (developmental biology, biochemistry, cardiovascular, biomedical engineering, plant biology, epidemiology) where mathematical modelling, analysis and simulations are driven by experimental observations (in vivo or in vitro) and these in turn validate experiments and make predictions testable in experimental laboratories.

Specifically, my group is currently developing new mathematical models for 3D cell migration using theory from differential geometry for example. Another example is that of how patterns form during growth development. Again, my research group is at the fore-front of generalising pattern formation mechanisms to those that can only give rise to patterns in the presence of domain and surface evolution. Ultimately, we want to develop parameter identification methodology whereby we use mathematics and high performing computing to solve inverse problems in experimental sciences, thereby giving precision to experimental manipulations.

What led to your research stay at RWTH Aachen? Is there a specific reason why you chose Germany and our University for your research visit?

RWTH Aachen has a reputation as a world leading institution in experimental and theoretical sciences. Through colleagues such as Professor Georg Hetzer from Auburn University in Alabama in the United States, a former professor in the Department of Mathematics at Aachen, it was made clear in our conversations that RWTH Aachen is a unique university for the sciences.

The more recent link was when Dr Reinhard Windoffer visited my research group at the University of Sussex to initiate EU grant applications in 2012. It was clear that the Molecular and Cellular Anatomy laboratory (MOCA) at RWTH Aachen led by Professor Dr Rudolf Leube was at the fore-front of carrying out experiments in cell biology, an area I was keen to find a collaborator.

I am very pleased to note that our collaboration is just beginning to take-off and promises to bring tangible results both in research and human infrastructure training.

What are the goals of this research cooperation?

The goal of our cooperation with RWTH Aachen is the exchange of information and knowledge, but also the training of students. NC State University sends students to Aachen and vice versa – that’s the main benefit. Sometimes also professors take part in the exchange – like I have done it now.

How do you remember the interaction with students and fellow researchers at your host institutes at RWTH Aachen University, the Institute of Molecular and Cellular Anatomy and the Institute of Imaging and Computer Vision?

The visit was excellent in all aspects. First, I was so pleased to be awarded the prestigious Theodore von Kármán Fellowship which supported financially my two weeks I stayed in the RWTH Aachen University Guest House.

I was most welcome in the laboratory. For a mathematician, it was an eye-opener to witness cutting-edge experiments, descriptions and demonstrations of how research in “wet-science” is undertaken. First, I had a daily dose of a condensed-course in cell biology (with particular emphasis on intermediate filaments and how they influence cell migration) delivered by Dr Windoffer (a one-to-one interaction).

Second, Dr Windoffer and his research team introduced microscopy experiments for cell migration. The most amazing experience was that of surgical proceedings to get cellular data (at a microscopic level) from hearts of wild-type and mutated mice. The last time I remember wearing a white gown, gloves and all the experimental gear necessary for such experiments was in High School, but back then it was all with toys! To witness how data is collected and stored from a mouse model to microscopic levels was impressive and I thank Dr. Claudia Krusche for giving me such a wonderful and unforgettable experience.

Apart from hands-on experience in wet science, the rest of the team led by Professor Leube involved me in group discussions, seminar (I thank Reinhard for the translations!) and in particular I had very nice discussions with researchers from imaging and computer vision. One of the research strands being undertaken by my group is to develop algorithms for cell tracking and we hope that collaborations with Imaging and Computer Vision might allow us to validate and refine our modeling as well as developing commercially viable algorithms.

Finally but not least, it was very nice that MOCA also invited Professor Stephanie Portet from the University of Manitoba in Canada. She is an expert on modeling intermediate filaments, so the trilateral collaboration was very useful.

Looking back on your stay at RWTH Aachen University - What was your most rewarding experience? Which tangible outcomes of your stay are most important?

Definitely the experience of wet-science. I hope that this opportunity will arise again in the future to allow me and my research students to experience how experimental manipulations are undertaken. The most important outcomes are:

  1. In-depth knowledge of experimental data acquisition
  2. Experimental observations for cell migration
  3. Development of a mathematical model for intermediate filaments (Keratin)
  4. Grant applications through the two institutions. This is an area we are actively working on and have successfully obtained significant funding for some of our research activities. For example, the University of Sussex (Dr Anotida Madzvamuse – Principal Organizer); RWTH Aachen MOCA (Professor Rudolf Leube); Forschungszentrum Juelich Institute of Complex Systems (ICS-7, Professor Rudolf Merkel) and the University of Minnesota in the USA (Professor Hans Othmer) will organize a 6-months research program at the Isaac Newton Institute for Mathematical Sciences in Cambridge UK to carry out research on coupling geometric PDEs with physics for cell morphology, motility and pattern formation. One of the workshops for this programme will be hosted and organized by RWTH Aachen and ISC-7 with the aim of introducing researchers to wet-science in the area of cell motility.

Is there anything else you would like to say or do you have any further comments?

Many thanks to the faculty, the researchers and students at both MOCA and ISC-7 who made my stay such a joyful and fruitful occasion. I also want to thank Professor Rudolf Leube and his family, Dr. Reinhard Windoffer and his family for all those delicious dinners!

Finally, thanks to Professor Stephanie Portet for introducing me to the mathematics of intermediate filaments as well as spending those nice walks to and from the Guest house to the Laboratory and exploring the beautiful city of Aachen.

Thank you very much, Professor Madzvamuse!