Ohio Wesleyan to Host Rice University Professor, Phi Beta Kappa Visiting Scholar

Bioengineering Expert Michael W. Deem, Ph.D., to Discuss Evolution, Mathematical Biology
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Michael W. Deem, Ph.D. (Photo courtesy of Phi Beta Kappa)

Michael W. Deem, Ph.D. (Photo courtesy of Phi Beta Kappa)

DELAWARE, Ohio – Michael W. Deem, the John W. Cox Professor in Bioengineering and a professor of physics and astronomy at Rice University, will discuss “Evolution in the Bacterial, Archaeal, and Jawed Vertebrate Immune Systems” in a free Science Lecture Series discussion April 4 at Ohio Wesleyan University.

Deem, this year’s Phi Beta Kappa Visiting Scholar, will speak at 4:10 p.m. April 4 in Room 163 of Ohio Wesleyan’s Schimmel/Conrades Science Center, 90 S. Henry St., Delaware.

During his presentation, Deem will discuss the effect of the high evolution rate of the influenza virus on the attempt to develop flu vaccines. He will describe methods that he has helped develop to improve the effectiveness of the annual vaccine. Those methods include a technique for detecting new flu strains earlier, as well as a method to predict how effective a vaccine is likely to be by measuring how differently the immune system perceives the vaccine and the virus.

While at Ohio Wesleyan, Deem also will visit classes, meet with students and faculty, and present a second talk at noon April 5. This presentation, “In Search of Fundamental Mathematical Laws of Biology,” is intended primarily for OWU mathematics and biology students and faculty. It will focus on modular structure in proteins, genetics, and biological networks, and the implications of those structural principles for engineering design, ecological food networks, development pathways, physiology, and social networks. He will link the discussion with a consideration of the immune system and its response to viruses and vaccines, including dengue fever. This presentation will be held at noon in Room 393 of the Schimmel/Conrades Science Center.

At Texas-based Rice University, Deem researches Newton’s laws of biology, the theory of personalized critical care, physical theories of pathogen evolution, vaccine design, and the structure of zeolites. He is a fellow of the American Institute for Medical and Biological Engineering, the American Physical Society, the Biomedical Engineering Society, and the American Association for the Advancement of Science. His honors include a Sloan Foundation fellowship; the Camille Dreyfus Teacher-Scholar Award in 2002; a National Science Foundation CAREER Award; the Colburn Award for excellence in publications; the Professional Progress Award from the American Institute of Chemical Engineers; and the O’Donnell Award from the Academy of Medicine, Engineering & Science of Texas. He was chosen one of MIT’s “Technology Review 1999 Young Innovators.” He is an associate editor of the journal “Physical Biology and Protein Engineering Design & Selection.”

The Phi Beta Kappa Visiting Scholar Program makes available each year a dozen or so distinguished scholars who visit colleges and universities that have chapters of Phi Beta Kappa. They spend two days on each campus contributing to the intellectual life of the institution. Now entering its 57th year, the Visiting Scholar Program has sent 600 Scholars on 4,917 two-day visits since it was established in 1956.

Founded in 1776, Phi Beta Kappa is the nation’s oldest academic honor society. It has chapters at 280 colleges and universities, and more than 600,000 members. The Ohio Wesleyan Chapter was founded in 1907. It annually elects outstanding liberal arts students in the graduating class, who are initiated on Commencement weekend.


Founded in 1842, Ohio Wesleyan University is one of the nation’s premier small, private universities. Ohio Wesleyan offers more than 90 undergraduate majors, sequences, and courses of study, and 23 NCAA Division III varsity sports. OWU combines an internationally focused curriculum with off-campus learning and leadership opportunities that connect classroom theory with real-world practice. Located in Delaware, Ohio, OWU’s 1,850 students represent 41 states and 45 countries. The university is featured in the book “Colleges That Change Lives,” listed on the 2013 President’s Higher Education Community Service Honor Roll with Distinction, and included on the “best colleges” lists of U.S. News & World Report and The Princeton Review. Learn more at www.owu.edu.

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