Richard Bertram

Professor, Department of Mathematics
Graduate Faculty Member, Institute of Molecular Biophysics
Graduate Faculty Member, Program in Neuroscience
Florida State University

Photo credit: Devin Bittner

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Current Research Interests

Activity of Pancreatic Beta-Cells

Pancreatic Beta-cells are located in islets of Langerhans in the pancreas and are the only cells in the body that secrete insulin, a hormone that is necessary for the uptake of glucose by other cells. Defects in beta-cell functioning lead to diabetes, which can result in death if not treated. The release of insulin is controlled by many physiological variables, including the cell's electrical activity, calcium, and nucleotide concentrations. I work in the development and analysis of mathematical models of beta-cell activity as well as potential methods for islet syncrhonization.

Hypothalamic Control of Hormone Secretion

The hypothalamus is the region of the brain that regulates the level and timing of hormone release from endocrine glands. One such gland, the pituitary, is located near the hypothalamus, and secretions from this gland regulate secretions from other glands. For this reason, the pituitary is sometimes called the "master gland". The hypothalamus sends both stimulatory and inhibitory input to the pituitary, resulting in neural regulation of secretion from gonadotrophs, somatotrophs, corticotrophs, melanotrophs, and lactotrophs. I develop mathematical models of pituitary cells, and work with collaborators to test model predictions and design new experiments.

Bursting Oscillations in Excitable Cells

In nerve cells, information is transmitted through electrical impulses. Electrical impulses also cause muscles to contract and endocrine cells to secrete hormones. Quite often, impulses are generated as high-frequency bursts, followed by periods of quiescence. This is particularly true in endocrine cells such as pancreatic beta-cells and pituitary cells. I am interested both in the dynamics of bursting (a mathematical topic) and in the mechanisms by which different cells generate periodic bursts of impulses (a biological topic).

Biological Networks

Many biological systems can be described as networks of interconnected nodes. I study these, in the context of neuroscience and gene transcription. In particular, I look at networks of interconnected pituitary cells, each of which is capable of bursting. The coupling is through gap junctions, so is electrical in nature. I also look at networks of neurons, where the coupling is through synapses and therefore chemical in nature. Finally, I am involved in the development of new approaches for studying networks of gene expression and neural spike trains.


Neural Models
Pancreatic Beta-Cells
Synaptic Transmission
Structural Biology
Hypothalamus and Pituitary
Neural Basis of Birdsong
Bursting Analysis
Cardiac Models
Other Topics

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Structural Biology
Hypothalamus and Pituitary
Synaptic Transmission
Pancreatic Islet
Bursting Analysis
Cardiac Models
Other Topics

Biomathematics program


Biophysics group


Music and Math


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Prof. Richard Bertram
Department of Mathematics
Florida State University
Tallahassee, Fl 32306

tel.: (850)-644-7632 (IMB office)