Advances in the mathematical sciences — mathematics, statistics, and computer science — have brought new perspectives to biological research. By answering questions that cannot be addressed using other means, the mathematical sciences can provide indispensable tools for biological research. The result is the interdisciplinary field of mathematical biology, which involves developing analytical and computational predictive models of biological systems.
The concentration at St. Olaf is intended to train students in mathematical biology, allowing them to understand the development and applications of these models. With the large number of subfields in mathematical biology today, the concentration allows students to pursue a path that best suits their interest (e.g., mathematical modeling or bioinformatics).
Students completing the concentration will be equipped with the skills necessary to enter the fast-growing field of mathematical biology or pursue graduate work in the field.
Students pursuing the concentration take the required core course, MATH 236 Mathematics of Biology, the .25 credit Exploring Biomathematics course, and then choose two electives within each of the following two categories: Mathematics/Computer Science/Statistics, Biology.
Two Interesting Courses
MABIO 130: Exploring Biomathematics
Students spend one evening each week exploring topics at the interface of mathematics and biology. Faculty introduce topics supported by a reading assignment to be done prior to class. Class time is spent exploring the problem and developing the mathematical approach to solving it. Topics may include invasive species, sex-ratio evolution, neural networks, feedback control, graph theory, statistical ecology, and population genetics.
STAT 284: Biostatistics: Design and Analysis
The course investigates issues in health-related settings using a quantitative, research-oriented perspective. Course material focuses on global and public health issues, study design, methods for analyzing health data, and communication of research findings. Design topics include controlled trials, case-control, cohort and other observational studies. Methods include survival analysis and causal inference for observational studies. Communication emphasizes writing up findings and interpreting published research.
Five Possible Complementary Majors at St. Olaf College:
Unique Opportunities within the Concentration
Students complete an Integrative Project and participate in the Senior Math Biology Symposium:
The project must be approved by the director in order for the student to finish the concentration. There are many ways in which the project can be completed. For example, the level III biology electives in the concentration all include final projects that allow a student to work on an integrative project for the concentration. Other experiences that could fulfill this requirement include a research project such as a summer Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU); a project in the expanded Center for Interdisciplinary Research (eCIR); working with faculty to develop a module for a course; an independent research or independent study with a faculty member; or working with a faculty member to develop a computational lab that could be incorporated into an existing course.
Senior Math Biology Symposium
The symposium is open to the public and provides students the opportunity to explain mathematical and biological concepts to a broad audience. In addition, the symposium is an event that brings together all the students in the concentration, thus strengthening the mathematical biology community here at St. Olaf.
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