James K. Peterson

Associate Professor, Department of Biological Sciences
Associate Professor, Department of Mathematical Sciences

Honorary Associate Professor, Department of Pathology
Bosch Institute, School of Medical Sciences, University of Sydney

Contact Information

Phone: 864 656-2883
FAX: 864 656-5230
Email: petersj@clemson.edu


  • Ph.D., Colorado State University, 1980, Mathematics
  • M.S., Colorado State University, 1977, Mathematics
  • B.S., Indiana University Northwest, 1975, Mathematics

Research Interests

I move freely between the disciplines of mathematics, computational science, biological science and computer hardware in my attempts to model the things that interest me. Currently, my interests include:

  1. computational modeling of cognition: I work on several aspects of the challenge of building a small brain model capable of being useful in autonomous mental development.  Such a fusion of algorithm development, biological abstraction and software development would have to be fieldable in possibly adverse environments and learn from environmental input in an unsupervised manner. We attempt  to build such a small brain model with useful functionality by abstracting, from the messiness of biological complexity, the essential connection and structural information needed to assemble graphs of computational objects.  This is done by developing
    • a neural object model of the relevant signal transductions,
    • a low dimensional biological feature vector model of the information contained in the action potential
      of an excitable neuron,
    • modular directed graphs of fundamental information processing blocks such as cortex and thalamus,
    • a graph Laplacian plus hebbian link weight update strategy for associating the high
      level precepts formed by sensor fusion in the upper columns of cortex with sensor data,     
    • novel training data which is emotionally tagged in both the visual and auditory modalities
      to build emotional attributes into the model,
    • decision architectures.                              
  2. models of west nile virus infection: I build these models using discrete simulation techniques.  Recently, I have been successful at recreating the measured survival curve data in WNV infections.
  3. the development of a robust quantitative emphasis area in biology.  I have been heavily involved in the design and implementation of the mathematical cornerstones that support this area.  I have written the text used in the Calculus for Biologists which is now required and I am working on the followup text for a more advanced mathematical methods course.  These courses have been designed from the ground up to do a blend of mathematics, computer science and biological modeling.   The Calculus for Biologists
    course is now taught to about 140 - 150 students per year.  I am now actively seeking external funding for these ideas with a team from both mathematics and biology that will allow us to grow even more.

Selected Publications

  • Peterson, J., King, N., Davison,  A., Getts, D.,Ping Lu, D., Teague Getts, M., Yeung, A., and Kesson, A. "Enhanced     antigen processing or immune evasion? West Nile virus and the induction of immune recognition molecules'', Chapter 14 (Invited), West Nile Encephalitis Virus Infection, M. S. Diamond, editor, Springer - Verlag, To appear.
  • Peterson, J., Calculus For Biologists: A Beginning -- Getting Ready For Models and Analyzing Models, Gneural Gnome Press, 2008,
    www.lulu.com/GneuralGnome},  Version 4.
  • Peterson, J. and Khan, T., "Abstract Action Potential Models For Toxin Recognition'',  2006, Journal of Theoretical Medicine, Vol. 6, No. 4, pp 199 - 234.

Recent Courses

  • MTHSC 108-Biology Calculus for Biology -- this is changing to MTHSC 111 in Fall 2009.
  • MTHSC 450 Mathematical Models -- this is where I try out my ideas on the second mathematical models in biology course
  • MTHSC 206 Calculus III for Engineers
  • MTHSC 208 Differential Equations for Engineers MTHSC 821 Linear Analysis MTHSC 822 Measure Theory MTHSC 927 Functional Analysis

Professional Affiliations

  • SIAM