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. ( and ) 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: The 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 from members.
  1. What educational experiences have you had in collaboration (mathematician with a biologist/biologist with a mathematician)? Were they "successful?" Rewarding? Please explain.
  2. 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?
  3. How can we fund future meetings/workshops that encourage collaboration between mathematicians and biologists with respect to undergraduate mathematical biology programs?
  4. 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?
  5. 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?
  6. When we co-meet with AIBS, should we run workshops for biologists? Are there other avenues for outreach?
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.

Lastly, SMB has joined CELS (the Coalition for Education in the Life Sciences; 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.

Respectfully submitted,

John R. Jungck
Committee Chairperson

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