Dean's Distinguished Women in Mathematics, Statistics, and Computer Science Lecture Series

Wednesday, May 15, 2024

Decoding vision: unravelling photoreceptor vitality & degeneration through mathematics


This talk will provide a brief overview of my mathematical research in photoreceptor degeneration and vitality at both the cellular and molecular level as well as the interactions and feedback mechanisms within and between these levels. There are many different maladies that can result in blindness but the ones that result from photoreceptor degeneration pose the biggest threat as there is no cure. My mathematical models, often developed in collaboration with experimental researchers and/or their data, investigate experimentally observed photoreceptor death and rescue in retinal degeneration, the complex interrelated metabolic pathways in cones, and the impact of administered neurotrophic factors. Dynamical systems, optimal control, uncertainty and sensitivity analysis together with in silico experiments are used to analyze these systems of nonlinear differential equations and provide a framework for targeted multi-faceted interventions.


Dr. Erika Tatiana Camacho has a long and successful career in and outside of academia as a mathematical biologist, researcher, educator, mentor and advocate for racial and gender equity. Camacho is the inaugural holder of the Manuel P. and María Antonietta Berriozábal Endowed Chair and professor in The University of Texas at San Antonio (UTSA)’s mathematics and neuroscience, developmental and regenerative biology departments.  Camacho was a Fulbright Research Scholar at the Institut de la Vision-Sorbonne Université in Paris 2022-2023. From 2019-2022 Camacho worked at the National Science Foundation (NSF) as Program Director (PD) co-Lead of the Hispanic- Serving Institutions (HSI) Program and PD of the ADVANCE and the Racial Equity in STEM Education Programs.

Camacho’s leadership, research, scholarship, and mentoring have won her numerous national and regional recognitions including the 2019 American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS  Mentor Award), the 2014 Presidential Award for Excellence in Science, Mathematics and Engineering Mentoring (PAESMEM) award from the White House, a 2022 NSF Director’s Award for Superior Accomplishment, the Association for Women in Mathematics (AWM) 2023 M. Gweneth Humphreys award, the 2020 SACNAS Presidential Award, the 2020 AWM Louise Hay Award for Mathematics Education, the 2018 AAHHE Outstanding Latino/a Faculty in Higher Education Research/Teaching (Research Institutions) Award, the 2017 Great Minds in STEM Education Award, the 2012 SACNAS Distinguished Mentoring Award, and one of 12 Emerging Scholars by Diverse: Issues in Higher Education in 2010,among many other national awards and honors. She was a 2013-2014 MLK Visiting Assistant Professor of Mathematics at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). Most recently, Camacho was named a Fellow of the Association of Women in Mathematics (AWM)  and a Fellow of the American Mathematical Society (AMS)  in January 2024.