Director's Message

Welcome to NIMBioS!

Welcome! These are exciting times here at NIMBioS! In our first twelve years as the National Institute for Mathematical and Biological Synthesis we played an instrumental role in the growth of the field of quantitative biology. Now, as the National Institute for Modeling Biological Systems, our mission is to help our community of researchers, scholars, and practitioners of quantitative life scientists to thrive.

We look forward to continuing in the best traditions of research, outreach, and education, even though the details for how we will support each of those core activities have shifted a bit. We hope our friends, old and new, will be excited to help build a sustainable and valuable resource together for us all. We welcome you all to join us.

Check back often for new programs and opportunities.

- Dr. Nina Fefferman
Please reach out to us if you have any questions!

Meet the Director

Dr. Nina Fefferman is the director at NIMBioS, the associate director of the Univeristy of Tennesse One Health Initiative, and a professor in the Departments of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology and of Mathematics at the University of Tennessee. Nina earned her AB in Mathematics at Princeton, her MS in Mathematics at Rutgers, and her Ph.D. in Biology at Tufts.

Nina originally went to graduate school for pure mathematics, but that turned out not to be a great fit. Since she knew she still wanted to do research, Nina met with potential advisors in various fields at different universities and finally met a researcher at Tufts University that she believed would be a fantastic advisor for her, Dr. Michael Reed, who just so happened to be a biologist, and the rest was history. “He is still one of my most important mentors,” she says.

Her favorite area of research is studying under which conditions individuals participating in social groups can act purely out of self-interest, but also benefit the group as a happy accident. While she looks at this from a variety of perspectives, one she keeps coming back to is social networks and how the contacts and relationships individuals form allow the whole population to share information or resources, or make decisions, or minimize the spread of disease while still having a functioning society. This question can be applied to lots of different areas of research: behavior, disease control, evolutionary sociobiology and the evolution of cooperative social systems, real estate markets, supply chain management, and many more. Social network structures vary greatly between different species and how they interact in a social group, but the math to study them can be very similar. Her research asks the question of how individual behaviors shape the emerging structures of the network that then shape the individual and shared group benefits the group can produce as a whole.


Our mission is to foster the growth of transdisciplinary approaches within mathematics and biology


1122 Volunteer Blvd, Claxton 114
University of Tennessee
Knoxville, TN 37996-3410

Nina Fefferman, Director


From 2008 until early 2021, NIMBioS was supported by the National Science Foundation through NSF Award #DBI-1300426, with additional support from the University of Tennessee, Knoxville.  Any options, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation.
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