Dr Belinda S Akpa is an Assistant Professor of Integrated Synthetic and Systems Biology in the Department of Molecular Biomedical Sciences at North Carolina State University. She is also an affiliate member of the Department of Electrical & Computer Engineering and holds a BA, MEng, and doctorate in Chemical Engineering from the University of Cambridge (UK). A highly interdisciplinary researcher, her current interest is in developing mathematical frameworks that integrate scarce and heterogeneous data to connect molecular phenomena to dynamic physiological outcomes. At a time when many are wrangling with the challenges of biological ‘big data’, Dr Akpa focuses instead on ‘tiny data’ problems – i.e. physiological questions for which there is little quantitative data, and further data collection may be hampered by limited resources, ethical constraints, or simply a lack of clarity as to which measurements are most likely to shed light on the causal mechanisms underlying emergent phenomena of interest. Dr Akpa is broadly interested in computational biology, but more specifically in how mechanistic mathematical models can be used to inform targeted experimental strategies. By necessity, her research efforts explore the limits of what one can learn from empirical observations and mathematical models, both independently and in integrative studies.
Dr Akpa joined NC State after serving on the faculty in the Department of Chemical Engineering at the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC), where she initiated her interdisciplinary research program in computational systems physiology. To date, her work has touched the fields of pharmacology/toxicology, membrane biophysics, plant physiology, and forensic anthropology. She has mentored graduate and undergraduate research students with academic backgrounds ranging from chemical engineering and mathematics to genetics, pharmacy, and astronomy. She is also the recipient of the Harold Simon Award, UIC College of Engineering’s highest teaching distinction.