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Does cancer follow the rules of math? This scientist certainly thinks so — and she's onto something.

Franziska Michor is quickly becoming a rising star in the worlds of math and medicine and for good reason.

In 2005, at the age of 22, Franziska Michor finished her doctorate in evolutionary biology at Harvard University.

Michor was born in Vienna, Austria, the child of a nurse and a mathematician. Early on, she developed a passion for math that — luckily for humanity — has stuck with her into her adult life.

In a 2007 profile in Esquire magazine, she joked about her father's policy that she and her sister either had to study math or marry a mathematician.


"We said, 'Oh, no, anything but that!' So we studied math."

Photo from The Vilcek Foundation.

While you might think that science, medicine, and math just go together, Michor says that's not the case.

"If you like science but don't like math, you go into medicine," she told Esquire, noting that while the people in medicine might not like math, cancer does.

If we're going to make progress in the fight against cancer, it's going to take math. And that's why her passion for both is so important.

In Vienna, she studied both math and molecular biology, a somewhat unique academic path. With her options limited at home, she moved to the U.S. for her graduate studies.

Since graduating, Michor has become known for her unique, mathematic approach to treatment of one of life's scariest situations: cancer.

Now a professor at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and Harvard School of Public Health, Michor incorporates quantitative methods and evolutionary biology in trying to understand what fuels cancer cells.

Photo from The Vilcek Foundation.

As she frames it, "Cancer is the body's fight with rapid evolution within the body."

That is, the human body is in a constant state of change. At any given moment, the body is home to millions (or even billions) of mutated cells. While there's always the possibility that any one of these cells might become cancerous, the overwhelming majority of them are harmless and are eventually destroyed by the body (phew!).

The trouble with treating cancer is that it doesn't exist in a vacuum. There are treatments that can wipe out cancerous cells, but if it's also destroying healthy cells essential to survival, that pretty obviously presents a problem.

In 2015, she received the Vilcek Prize for Creative Promise in Biomedical Science for her work developing new approaches to treating cancer.

So much of her work has centered around optimizing the scheduling and dosages used in drugs for treating cancer. Her approach has found some major success.

Vilcek Prizes are given to "immigrants who have made lasting contributions to American society through their extraordinary achievements in biomedical research and the arts and humanities." Michor certainly fits that category.

From the Vilcek Foundation's website:

"Michor's efforts are driven by the courage to test approaches that defy convention. Her prominence in the United States cancer research community is embodied in the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute-based Physical Science-Oncology Center, a collaborative, interdisciplinary endeavor that she has led since 2009, thanks to a competitive $11 million grant she received from the National Cancer Institute; at the center, researchers apply physical sciences to solve problems in cancer biology. Because the willingness to embrace path-breaking research is embedded deep within the DNA of the American scientific community, says Michor, she finds herself at home in the United States: 'WhatIloveaboutthe UnitedStatesisthatthepeoplearenotrisk-averse. In Europe,youhavetobeveryconvincedthatsomethingis goingtoworkbeforeyoutryit. Iamverygratefulthat Ihave collaboratorswhoarewillingtosupportmeandhelptestmy ideasintheclinic.'"

Her work may save millions of lives, and it's in part the product of her having the opportunity and resources to customize her academic path.

She wants to "teach math to medicine," meaning to take medicine, teach it math, and as a result, create better medicine. Better medicine is always welcome.

Photo from The Vilcek Foundation.

A breastfeeding mother's experience at Vienna's Schoenbrunn Zoo is touching people's hearts—but not without a fair amount of controversy.

Gemma Copeland shared her story on Facebook, which was then picked up by the Facebook page Boobie Babies. Photos show the mom breastfeeding her baby next to the window of the zoo's orangutan habitat, with a female orangutan sitting close to the glass, gazing at them.

"Today I got feeding support from the most unlikely of places, the most surreal moment of my life that had me in tears," Copeland wrote.

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Joy

10 things that made us smile this week

Here, have a round of joy. It's on us.

Alexas_Fotos/Canva

Upworthy's weekly roundup of delights.

When headlines and social media seem to be dominated by the negative, we all need reminders that the world is full of wonderfulness. Joy connects and inspires us and can be found everywhere—if we keep our eyes open and look for it. One of our goals at Upworthy is to make that search a little easier by telling stories that highlight the best of humanity and sharing the delights, large and small, that unite us.

Each week, we collect 10 things that made us smile and offer them to you to enjoy and share with others. We hope this week's list tickles your heart and brings a smile (or 10) to your face as well.

1. Tico the parrot is a master vocalist. Not even an exaggeration.

@ticoandtheman

On a dark desert hwy, cool wind in my hair…

We've shared some delightful parrots in these roundups before, and each one somehow seems to out-entertain the last. I did not see Tico's vocal skills coming, though. The intonation! The vibrato! Even my music major daughter was blown away by this singing bird.

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Family

A mom describes her tween son's brain. It's a must-read for all parents.

"Sometimes I just feel really angry and I don’t know why."

This story originally appeared on 1.05.19


It started with a simple, sincere question from a mother of an 11-year-old boy.

An anonymous mother posted a question to Quora, a website where people can ask questions and other people can answer them. This mother wrote:

How do I tell my wonderful 11 year old son, (in a way that won't tear him down), that the way he has started talking to me (disrespectfully) makes me not want to be around him (I've already told him the bad attitude is unacceptable)?

It's a familiar scenario for those of us who have raised kids into the teen years. Our sweet, snuggly little kids turn into moody middle schoolers seemingly overnight, and sometimes we're left reeling trying to figure out how to handle their sensitive-yet-insensitive selves.


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