Faculty Profile: Harsh Jain
When new faculty member Dr. Harsh Jain was attending high school in India, he had no idea he would go on to flourish in an exciting career in biomathematics. Dr. Jain describes his career choice as a "happy accident"-during high school he showed a strong dislike for mathematics but didn't know what other major to declare in college. Advised that with a mathematics degree he could pursue anything he chose, he passed his qualifiers for pure math and then stumbled into biomathematics, thinking, "Who had ever heard of biomath?"
After high school, Dr. Jain continued onto St. Stephen's College, at Delhi University in India, where he acquired a Bachelor of (Honors) Mathematics degree. He continued to the University of Cambridge, where he received another Bachelor of (Honors) Mathematics degree. At that point, Dr. Jain had thoroughly changed his view of mathematics, advancing to the University of Michigan to work towards his Doctorate in Mathematics. While in Ann Arbor, he worked under Tracy Jackson, a mentor whom Dr. Jain names as someone he greatly admires. In fact, Jain is grateful for the career course he chose due in part to the opportunity he found in working with her. Under Jackson, at the University of Michigan, his dissertation topic was "Multiscale Models of VEGF-Medicated Molecular Signaling Pathways."
Jain made his way to The Ohio State University, where he acted as a postdoctoral scholar at the Mathematical Biosciences Institute. Dr. Jain appreciates this experience because it gave him the chance to delve into his own research without narrow guidelines. His biggest complaint at OSU? "You can't get a good cup of coffee anywhere," he says. Leaving OSU to complete a visiting postdoctoral fellowship, Jain was able to follow mentor Helen Bryne to the Oxford Centre for Collaborative and Applied Mathematics at the University of Oxford. There he continued his research, developing new mathematical approaches to meet the challenges of translating insight from modeling into clinical practice. His research interests include the use of mathematical modeling to understand complex biological phenomena, with a focus on biomedical applications such as cancer growth and treatment, physiological and pathological angiogenesis (blood vessel growth), and foreign body response to implanted biomedical devices. His work on bridging the divide between modeling and clinical practice has recently been accepted for publication in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, featured on the National Science Foundation and National Cancer Institute websites, and has appeared on a number of medical news websites.
Unlike most of my peers, I only applied to places I wanted to go Harsh Jain
Even before Dr. Jain came to Florida State University, several factors attracted him-the strong Biomath department, the great math faculty, and the fact that FSU had paved the way as one of the first schools involved in cancer research. In the current job market, which has left many post-graduates and instructors applying to a large number of institutions, he has distinguished himself by carefully choosing and applying to those institutions that strongly appealed to him. "Unlike most of my peers, I only applied to places I wanted to go," he says. After Jain sent out about twenty applications, FSU beckoned with the opportunity to work with cancer models, growth treatments, new targets, and wound healing.
While Dr. Jain's career is just beginning, his favorite career moment thus far has been "seeing the obvious application of research in the results." Although researching cancer treatments and developing models is a major part of his work, instructing also figures prominently. "Good teaching engages the class. It inspires a lot of questions; the message gets across. It motivates students to think further and gets students interested because the instructor conveys their interest in the subject."
It's fortunate for Florida State University that Dr. Jain has brought his research and teaching philosophy to our campus. As a teenager, he intended to join the Indian Foreign Service because of the opportunities it afforded to travel and see the world. Thankfully, he followed the advice to explore mathematics, and has just begun to enjoy the city of Tallahassee, the research prospects available to him, and the beautiful campus at Florida State.