The model of motion: New assistant professor examines principles of random motion

Jay Newby's research sheds light on a variety of sub-micron scale objects, from pathogens to proteins.

Andrew Lyle - 29 October 2018

What can random motion teach us? It turns out that, at the sub-micron scale, the random motion of tiny objects can have big applications. New University of Alberta assistant professor Jay Newby, in the Department of Mathematical and Statistical Sciences, is studying random, or stochastic, motion in order to better understand viruses, synthetic drug carriers, proteins, and more.

After completing both his undergrad and PhD at the University of Utah, Newby has worked at the University of Oxford, Ohio State University, and the University of North Carolina over the past eight years. Now, he joins the team at UAlberta, contributing to our understanding of how the world works on the smallest of scales in a big way.

What brought you to the University of Alberta?

I accepted the job offer from University of Alberta because of the exciting research in the Department of Mathematical and Statistical Sciences, the Department of Computing Science, and at UAlberta generally. I'm also here because Edmonton is an affordable, vibrant, and growing city.

Tell us about your research program.

I'm interested in "small things that move" in sub-micron-scale living systems. The "small things" that I study can be pathogens, synthetic drug carriers, proteins, biopolymers, and much more.

These objects are inside cells and mucosal barriers that protect us from infection. These small spaces are on the nanometer to micrometer scale where objects move randomly; for example, in Brownian motion, where objects are constantly being bombarded by their surrounding molecules.

I study the mathematics of random motion. I also use machine learning and mathematical models to analyze microscopy videos of moving objects.

Why is this an important field of study?

The increasing availability of powerful light microscopes capable of collecting terabytes of high-resolution 2D and 3D videos in a single day has created a great demand for automated image analysis tools. Tracking the movement of nanometer scale particles, for example viruses, proteins, and synthetic drug particles, is critical for understanding how pathogens breach mucosal barriers and spread, as well as for the design of new drug therapies.

Tell us about your teaching.

I will be teaching several classes next spring. I love teaching and mentoring. It is an important component in every aspect of my job. I'm looking for talented graduate and undergraduate students that want to learn and participate in my research!