SIAM News Blog

Honoring Trachette L. Jackson

In honor of Black History Month, SIAM will be shining a spotlight on Black mathematicians throughout February, starting with longtime SIAM member Trachette L. Jackson. Dr. Jackson is an award-winning applied mathematician and professor at the University of Michigan whose research in mathematical oncology and biology has been featured in Forbes, NPR, and The New York Times.

Education and Awards

Dr. Jackson earned her Ph.D. in Applied Mathematics from the University of Washington under the direction of Professor James D. Murray, one of the founding leaders in the field of Mathematical Biology. Ten years later, after postdoctoral positions at the IMA and Duke University, she was promoted to Full Professor of Mathematics at the University of Michigan. In 2003, she became the second African American woman to receive the prestigious Alfred P. Sloan Research Award in Mathematics. In 2005, Dr. Jackson received the James S. McDonnell 21st Century Scientist Award, and in 2008 Diverse Magazine honored her as one of the year’s Emerging Scholars. In 2010 she became the first woman to receive the Blackwell-Tapia Prize, which recognizes a mathematician who has contributed significantly to research and has served as a role model for mathematical scientists and students from underrepresented minority groups. More recently, Dr. Jackson was voted into the inaugural class of AWM Fellows and the inaugural class of Simon’s Foundation Fellows. 

Research Focus 

Dr. Jackson’s research lies within the overarching field of mathematical biology, which can be characterized by the use of sophisticated mathematical, statistical, and computational modeling techniques to facilitate a deep understanding of biology for human benefit and the mitigation of human harm. Within mathematical biology, she specializes in computational cancer research or mathematical oncology. Mathematical and computational modeling approaches have been applied to every aspect of tumor growth, from mutation acquisition and tumorigenesis to metastasis and treatment response. Dr. Jackson’s research focuses on developing mathematical methods to address critical questions associated with tumor progression and targeted therapeutics. Dr. Jackson has built her career on collaborative research and educational activities that cut across traditional disciplinary boundaries. She envisions that this type of research will eventually change the face of cancer research.

Recent Happenings

Just last month, Dr. Jackson gave the AMS-MAA-SIAM Gerald and Judith Porter Public Lecture entitled “Turning cancer discoveries into effective treatments with the aid of mathematical modeling” as part of the 2021 Joint Mathematics Meetings. The lecture highlighted a suite of mathematical models designed to optimize the use of targeted drug treatment strategies, alone and in combination with traditional chemotherapy, to address the critical challenges associated with targeted cancer therapeutics. These mathematical models, combined with existing and newly generated experimental data, are poised to improve the ability to combine promising drugs for clinical trials.

Last year, NIH’s National Cancer Institute awarded Dr. Jackson a $2.4M grant to develop multiscale computational models, guided by emerging cellular dynamics quantification technologies, for predicting optimum immune checkpoint and targeted therapy schedules.  Her team’s experimentally-driven approach is poised to significantly enhance the current understanding of differential cell-kill mechanisms on tumor-immune outcomes and to improve the ability to combine promising drugs for clinical trials. 

Thank you, Dr. Jackson, for your profound contributions to mathematical biology. Tune in throughout February to meet more inspirational figures like Dr. Jackson!

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