Franziska Michor does what a lot of leaders do: She applies knowledge from one field to another, hoping to create something revolutionary.
In her case, that means applying mathematics to medicine to help cure cancer.
Michor’s father is a mathematician and her mother is a nurse. Because Michor wanted her mathematics work to be practical, not theoretical, she decided to use her father’s profession to accomplish her mother’s mission —that is, use math to heal the sick. She’s applying the “predictive force of mathematics” to cancer research and treatment.
Result: The 25-year-old is making medicine a little smarter by teaching it math. For starters, she has brought data to bear on what works better in chemotherapy—low doses of chemicals over a longer period or higher doses with breaks in between? (Answer: higher doses.)
So what’s in this for you?
Use math to solve problems dogging your field. According to Michor:
- Some aspect of the problem is intrinsically mathematical.
- Math helps you think clearly.
- “Without math, you make mistakes; there will be misunderstandings.”
- “You can’t misunderstand an equation.”
A mathematical model of brain cancer would create a “natural history of the tumor” and help scientists figure out which mutations to stop. This model has never been done before. Michor intends to do it.
Told that she’s good at what she does because she’s smart, Michor asks: “How do you know I’m smart? Because I’m successful? Maybe you don’t have to be smart to be successful. Maybe you just have to be brave.”
—Adapted from “The Isaac Newton of Biology,” Tom Junod, Esquire