Charles Franklin Starmer
Professor Emeritus of Computer Science

Though trained formally as an electrical engineer, I found myself starting my career in the Cardiology Division of the Department of Medicine. My first research project was to explore the nature of electically induced ventricular fibrillation - an introduction to reentrant cardiac arrhythmias. Though VF is complex, this work ignited my curioisity about the underlying nature of cellular communication - whether electrical via gap junctions or chemical via ligand-receptor interactions. Along the way, I found myself developing the computational infrastructure for the Cardiology Databank, starting the Computer Science Department and eventually finding my way to the laboratory. With my long term collaborator, Gus Grant, we explored single cardiac ion channels, drug interactions with cardiac ion channels and found ourselves facing my initial interests in reentrant cardiac arrhythmias, in this case, induced by drug-channel interactions. The modeling of cardiac and neuronal action potentials resulted in identifying the determinants of the cardiac vulnerable period and today is referred to as computational biology. Computational biology has the unique feature of providing a direct look at underlying modeled processes in contrast to laboratory investigations where much is hidden. For me, identifying the physical basis of generic biological processes (e.g. excitation, propagation, ligand-receptor binding and transporters) via computational models is simply great fun.

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