Invited Speakers

Southwest Undergraduate Mathematics Research Conference

Tucson, AZ, March 29 - 31, 2019

Dr. Dante Lauretta

Professor, Planetary Science and Cosmochemistry • University of Arizona Lunar and Planetary Laboratory

Dante Lauretta is principal investigator of the OSIRIS-REx mission and a professor of planetary science at the University of Arizona’s Lunar and Planetary Laboratory. His research interests focus on the chemistry and mineralogy of asteroids and comets, and he is an expert in the analysis of extraterrestrial materials, including asteroid samples, meteorites and comet particles.

Dr. Lauretta heads a research team at the UA working on this mission, which has included more than 100 undergraduate and graduate students. The mission was selected in 2011, launched in 2016, and returns samples back to Earth in 2023. Sample analysis continues until 2025. This project will help ensure that the University of Arizona remains at the forefront of planetary exploration for the next decade.


The OSIRIS-REx mission will be traveling to Bennu, a carbon-rich, near-Earth asteroid. The spacecraft launched on September 8, 2016, and is scheduled to rendezvous with Bennu in 2018 and ultimately bring samples of the asteroid back to Earth. These samples will be the first for a U.S. mission and may hold clues to the origin of the solar system and the organic molecules that may have seeded life on Earth.

The University of Arizona leads the mission for NASA, and it is also providing the science operations team and the spacecraft’s camera system. NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center provides overall mis- sion management. Lockheed Martin Space Systems built the spacecraft. United Launch Alliance built the mission’s Atlas V launch vehicle. The mission is in an exciting phase right now as the OSIRIS-REx spacecraft is on its outbound journey to Bennu.

Title: NASA’s OSIRIS-REx Mission at Near-Earth Asteroid Bennu


In May 2011, NASA selected the Origins, Spectral Interpretation, Resource Identification, and Security–Regolith Explorer (OSIRIS-REx) asteroid sample return mission as the third mission in the New Frontiers program. The spacecraft departed Earth on September 8, 2016, on a seven-year journey to study and return a sample from near-Earth asteroid (101955) Bennu. The outbound-cruise trajectory resulted in optical acquisition of Bennu on August 18, 2018, when the asteroid was just bright enough for detection by the PolyCam imager. These first science observations marked the beginning of asteroid proximity operations. The Approach phase was followed by Preliminary Survey, which consisted of five hyperbolic trajectories that crossed over the north and south poles and the equator at a range of ~7 km. The spacecraft was placed into orbit on December 31, 2018, beginning the Orbital A phase. The spacecraft data collected during these periods provide information about Bennu’s surface reflectance, mineralogical distributions, geology, and thermal characteristics.

Dr. Joceline Lega

Joceline Lega is a professor of Mathematics at the University of Arizona, with a joint appointment in the Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics in the College of Public Health. She was trained and educated in France and, prior to UA, was a full-time scientist at the French National Center for Scientific Research. Her research interests are in the modeling of nonlinear phenomena, with a current focus on the use of mathematical models for forecasting. With colleagues in public health (UA) and geography (ASU), she co-leads a transdisciplinary research group that engages undergraduate, graduate, and postdoctoral researchers in understanding mosquito-borne diseases.

Title: Transdisciplinary modeling of mosquito-borne diseases


Understanding mosquito-borne diseases requires a transdisciplinary approach that combines mathematical modeling with epidemiology, insect science, public health, data science, and geography. This presentation will focus on three questions related to diseases transmitted by Aedes aegypti, emphasizing opportunities for undergraduate research. Specifically, we will consider how climate affects the life cycle of the mosquito, how hidden properties of epidemiological models have helped forecast the spread of chikungunya in the Caribbean and the Americas, and how the way people move between places may be used to predict where a disease may go next.

Dr. Dan Madden

Title: TBA

Abstract: Coming soon

Dr. Timothy Secomb

Timothy W. Secomb earned his Ph.D. in Applied Mathematics in 1979 from the University of Cambridge, U.K. and carried out postdoctoral work at Columbia University. He has been at the University of Arizona since 1981 with appointments in the Department of Physiology, the Department of Mathematics and the program in Applied Mathematics. His scientific interests are in mathematical modeling of physiological phenomena, especially in the tiny blood vessels that form the microcirculation, including the mechanics of blood flow in capillaries, exchange of oxygen and other solutes between blood and tissue, regulation of blood flow, and growth and structural adaptation of blood vessels. His research has been continuously supported by the National Institutes of Health since 1985. He works in collaboration with undergraduate and graduate students at the University of Arizona, and with many colleagues in various related disciplines.

Title: Oxygen transport in the body: a matter of life and death


Most cells in the human body require an adequate oxygen supply so that they can generate enough energy to stay alive and to function properly. While some tissues of the body can survive long periods of oxygen deprivation, others, notably the brain, suffer irreversible damage within minutes if they are not supplied with oxygen. Oxygen does not dissolve readily in water or in our body tissues, so how can we get enough oxygen to where it is needed? This lecture will describe some of the remarkable features of the circulatory system that enable it to perform this task, emphasizing the critical role of red blood cells flowing in the microcirculation. The use of mathematical and computational approaches to gain better understanding of the mechanisms of oxygen transport in the body will be highlighted.

Dr. Ricardo Valerdi

Dr. Ricardo Valerdi is a Professor at the University of Arizona in the Department of Systems and Industrial Engineering and Pac-12 Faculty Athletics Representative. Prior to UA, he was a Research Associate in the Engineering Systems Division at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. His research focuses on improving our understanding of complex systems – both technical and social – by building predictive models. His research has been funded by Army, Navy, Air Force, BAE Systems, Lockheed Martin, Raytheon, and the NCAA. He received a Ph.D. in Industrial and Systems Engineering from the University of Southern California. Dr. Valerdi is the Founder and Chief Scientist of the Science of Sport, a not-for-profit spinoff of the University of Arizona designed to promote STEM through sports. He is a consultant to the Arizona Diamondbacks, Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, Los Angeles Dodgers, San Diego Padres, Colorado Rockies, Oakland A’s, Texas Rangers, Atlanta Braves, and Washington Nationals.

Title: The Science of Baseball


The Science of Baseball program provides a way for K-12 students to engage in math and science in a fun and interactive way. In this spirit, this presentation will showcase how analytics are being used to understand individual player contributions and predict baseball team outcomes. We will also provide an overview of the Sports Analytics class offered in the Sports Management program at the University of Arizona. Videos: and