SMB Re-establishes Education Committee
At the last annual meeting, we held a special session on mathematical
biology education. We reported on the previous four conferences that had
been especially devoted to the intersection of mathematics and biology
education. The first two were organized by Lou Gross and held at the
University of Tennessee - Knoxville. Lou developed web pages for these
"Quantitative Life Science Education" workshops (February 1992; May 1994;
Quantitative Curriculum for Life Science Students, P.I.: L. J. Gross,NSF
Award Number: USE-9150354; August 1, 1991 - July 31, 1995) that include
many valuable resources such as bibliographies and reviews of software.
) The third conference "Mathematics
for Undergraduate Life Sciences Students" was led by Jim Cornette and
colleagues at Iowa State University in May 1996. The focus shifted more
towards calculus courses per se that principally showcased biological
examples. The fourth conference
"Biological Aftermath" was held at Beloit College in June 1997 as a
Curriculum Development Workshop of the BioQUEST Curriculum Consortium.
It brought biologists together with mathematicians
involved with curricular reform so that they could benefit from their
successes as well as learning to anticipate some of the backlashes. An
issue of BioQUEST Notes entitled "Biological Aftermath: What can we learn
from contemporary mathematics reform?" and an article for the workshop
entitled "Ten Equations that Changed Biology: Mathematics for Problem
Solving Curricula" are available by emailing:
first three conferences were funded by NSF; the fourth one by the Howard
Hughes Medical Institute; we are seeking funds for the fifth conference
which Rick Cooper in the Department of Mathematics and Bob Blystone in the
Department of Biology at Trinity University in San Antonio have volunteered
to host, hopefully in late May 1999.
After the North Carolina State meeting, President Leon Glass asked me to
reactivate and chair an education committee of SMB. We are currently just
deciding on issues of membership and agenda. However, we have already
submitted a proposal for a symposium at the SIAM meeting in Toronoto. If
approved, the symposium would feature two mathematicians, Evans Afenyi from
Elmhurst College and Jim Cornette from Iowa State University, and two
biologists, Jim Haefner at Utah State University and myself. Lou Gross has
been an organizer or speaker or workshop leader at all four meetings.
Also, he organized both a special Symposium on Quantitative Curricula for
the Life Sciences and an Open Computer Laboratory at the 1994 Annual
Meeting of the American Institute of Biological Sciences. You are
encouraged to read his article: Gross, L. J. 1994. "Quantitative training
for life-science students." BioScience 4:59. He has agreed to serve on
the committee. We are greatly appreciative of Lou's leadership in
mathematical biology education.
In addition to the committee, Lee Segel, Editor of the Bulletin of
Mathematical Biology, invited me to solicit articles with educational foci
for the journal. He stressed that submissions should not only be
significant, but that they also have some lasting value. He suggested that
more ephemeral items be considered for the newsletter.
Several members of past education committees, including Buck McMorris and
Torcom Chorjobian, have contacted me about previous committee efforts. If
you have files from previous committee work, we would love to build an
electronic archive of such material for SMB. Please check your records and
share what you can with us.
Rick Cooper prepared a questionaire that was circulated at our session at
SMB. We are particulalry interested in increasing the number of responses
Jim Haefner has generously offerred to maintain a server for the SMB
Education Committee web pages which we will link to the primary SMB site.
Already members have submitted potential links to syllabi for courses,
articles on line, summer undergraduate workshop opportunities, etc.
Several graduate students expressed a desire for better information on
graduate programs in mathematical biology. They said that they frequently
experienced difficulties because thay had to look at Departments of
Mathematics, Applied Mathematics, Biology, Biophysics, Environmental
Engineering, Chemical Engineering, etc., in order to find out information.
Personally, I have been serving as editor for the past twelve years of The
BioQUEST Library, which is an electronic, peer-reviewed academic journal of
simulations and tools intended to help students learn long term strategies
of research as well as considerable experience in modelling and analyzing
diverse biological systems. Also, we have begun an "Art of Mathematical
Biology Gallery" on line that features student work. We would greatly
appreciate submissions from other institutions for both opportunities.
- What educational experiences have you had in
collaboration (mathematician with a biologist/biologist with a
mathematician)? Were they "successful?" Rewarding? Please explain.
How can tractable mathematical biology problems and examples be
disseminated to a broader audience that includes undergraduate faculty in
both mathematics and biology? A web based respository or database? (Like
Stat Lib? At Lou Gross's site or a new SMB education site?) CD based
distribution? Commercial or university press publisher? Who should be
responsible for maintaining whatever medium is chosen?
- How can we fund
future meetings/workshops that encourage collaboration between
mathematicians and biologists with respect to undergraduate mathematical
- If no funding were externally available to you, do
you think that there is a high probability that you would attend a fifth
workshop in May 1999 at Trinity University in San Antonio, Texas?
Do you involve undergraduates in research? If so, how early are you willing to
take them on? Do they present at meetings? (Posters? Oral presentations?)
Are they co-authors of papers? Do they have some choice in problems?
When we co-meet with AIBS, should we run workshops for biologists? Are
there other avenues for outreach?
Lastly, SMB has joined CELS (the Coalition for Education in the Life
This will allow SMB to have an active
voice in the discussion about where undergraduate biology education should
be going. CELS is working on a monograph on the role of professional
societies in undergraduate biology education reform which should be
released this year.
John R. Jungck
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