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Award-winning combination: Math + Medicine

Friday, September 6, 2019

Colin PhippsColin Phipps (PhD ’14) always loved math and computer science, but he always wanted to apply those skills to a high impact field. He focused his graduate research on mathematical oncology under the supervision of Mohammad Kohandel in the Department of Applied Mathematics.

Waterloo was Phipps’ first choice after completing his undergraduate work at Brock University in the Mathematics Integrated with Computer Applications program because it had a cutting-edge program. “The University of Waterloo was a phenomenal fit because they had an entire research program that was developing scientists in the mathematical medicine field,” said Phipps.

Phipps developed models to describe tumour growth dynamics, including tumour blood vessel development, cancer cell metabolism, and interstitial fluid pressure. He used the models to predict the effects of cancer therapies, specifically optimal combinations of therapies. Once he completed his PhD, Phipps worked as a postdoctoral researcher at the School of Pharmacy where he developed physiologically-based pharmacokinetic (PBPK) models for large molecules such as antibodies.

Now Phipps is a Senior Scientist at AbbVie, a global biopharmaceutical company. He’s focused on developing and implementing strategies to inform the translation of preclinical data to the clinical human setting using cell-based (in vitro) or animal (in vivo) models. When he’s not developing and simulating models, running analyses and presenting results, he’s meeting with stakeholders across various functions within the company including data generators in drug metabolism and pharmacokinetics, clinical pharmacometrics, in vivo pharmacology and discovery, to coordinate and learn about the data being generated that can inform translational models.

“For me, the most exciting and rewarding challenges are medical and biological problems that can impact people’s lives,” said Phipps. “Now, as the field expands with myriad new and more complex treatment options for patients, we see a need for more quantitative analysis, and more physicists, mathematicians and computer scientists tackling relevant problems in medicine.”

Recently, Phipps was recognized as one of the Top 40 under 40 Chicago Scientists. This is the second year that HALO celebrates the heroes of medicine for their work to find cures and treatments to help people live better lives.

“I’m honored by the recognition but more importantly, I’m happy to see public recognition of scientists making contributions to society across academia and industry,” he noted. “It’s fantastic to be part of this recognition honoring early career scientists and increasing awareness of their work.