Naven Narayanan

Welcome back! Today is Thursday which means it is time for our weekly featured scientist blog post. This week’s featured scientist is Naven Narayanan, who is a part of a lab with Dr. Allison Shaw and in the Department of Ecology, Evolution, and Behavior at the University of Minnesota. Naven’s research interests include mathematical ecology, mutualism, and species dispersal. Read on more to learn more about Naven and his experience as a scientist. 

Image by Man Chung


How did you get into the work that you do?

I actually initially wanted to study mathematics but I was also amazed by how simple calculus could help explain population growth (e.g. in bacterial cultures). And that is how I ended up doing what I do now.

What questions do people always ask when they learn about what you do? What is your typical response?

People are generally very surprised to hear me tell them how math can be used to answer questions in ecology. I often get asked what my “study system” is. My response is that quite often there are similar biological phenomena that occur across different species and different contexts. When the comparison between different “study systems” is difficult, math is a wonderful and useful tool to help answer questions in biology.

What is one of your favorite aspects of your work?

There are two aspects of my work that I really enjoy. The first is the “aha” moment when I identify a method to solve the equations in front of me. The second is using math and explaining what it means in the biological context

If you could study any one topic or idea, and money/time/equipment/ were not an issue, what would you study?

Within ecology, I’d love to run large scale experiments on how mutualistic interactions shape the biogeography of different species. In general, I would love to study number theory, in particular, the properties of prime numbers.

Outside of your scientific studies, what other subjects or interests do you enjoy?

Outside of my research, I enjoy learning more about the history of science and mathematics, digging up cool proofs of math theorems, clay modeling.

What is a fun fact that few people would guess about you?

A fun fact that a lot of people don’t know about me would be that I spend a lot of time studying watch-making.

Header Image by Pavel Neznanov