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Editorial: At Stony Brook, math vs. molecule

The Simons Center for Geometry and Physics at

The Simons Center for Geometry and Physics at Stony Brook University in Stony Brook. Credit: John Dunn

The future of medicine is in studying molecules that make us sick, then designing drugs that will say to them, in effect: "You know the way you always are? Don't be that way." What's been going on at Stony Brook University this week will bring us to that future sooner.

Scientists examining the tiniest bodily structures produce vast piles of data. Then they need powerful computer analysis to figure out the complex mathematical principles that will reveal how all our bodies' biochemical reactions interact -- and how to fine-tune the genetic switches inside our cells that go wrong and cause disease.

So Stony Brook has a right to celebrate two advances in that direction: One was the formal dedication Monday of the Louis and Beatrice Laufer Center for Physical and Quantitative Biology. Its scientists come from departments across the university and work with researchers at Brookhaven National Laboratory and Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory -- and online around the world.

The other event is a $10 million anonymous gift to hire faculty for a new Institute for Advanced Computational Science. It will help research in bioengineering, physics, chemistry and other fields. Actually, it amounts to a $20 million grant: The Simons Foundation Challenge Grant will match it.

These developments mark a big advance for Stony Brook research and send a message to those misbehaving molecules: The quants are coming to get you.


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