Produced by the Department of Media Relations & Publications

Getting Down to the Heart of the Matter

January 26, 2011

Professor Griffeth answers a student's question during her winter workshop in January.

For the second year in a row, as the snow piled up outside during January, Professor Nancy Griffeth (Mathematics and Computer Science) led a workshop of fifteen dedicated students from CUNY's senior colleges, as they labored in front of state-of-the art Mac computers, six hours a day, tackling one problem: atrial fibrillation.

So what does atrial fibrillation—the most common type of abnormal heartbeat that affects almost one in five people who live to 80—have to do with mathematical equations and computers? During the three-week, five-days-a-week workshop, the students worked with complex computational models that would enable researchers to better understand atrial fibrillation and how it works.

The workshop is funded by a $10 million National Science Foundation grant that Professor Griffeth, along with colleagues from Carnegie Mellon University, Cornell University, New York University, and NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, received in 2009. She organized the workshop at Lehman along with Professor Flavio Fenton of Cornell University and Ezio Bartocci, a postdoctorate research associate from Stony rook University.

"This workshop is designed for students to do innovative research using complex computer models and apply them to important social problems," said Professor Griffeth, "specifically biological and engineering problems that affect many people."

Other workshops are exploring the building of computer models to better understand such problems as pancreatic cancer (one of the most deadly forms of cancer) and automotive safety.

A graduate of Harvard College, Professor Griffeth earned her master's in mathematics at Michigan State University and her doctorate in information science at the University of Chicago. In 1995, she was chosen as one of the Top 100 Women in Computing by McGraw-Hill's Women in Computing Newsletter. Before coming to Lehman in 2003, she worked in the Next Generation Networking Lab at Lucent Technologies.

"It's been a great experience," said Gabriel Deards, 20, a biology and statistics major in the Macaulay Honors College. "It's very innovative stuff we're dealing with here. I highly recommend it for anyone."