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SMB Education Committee

by John R. Jungck

Lou Gross chaired another highly successful symposium: "Education in Mathematical Biology," with four speakers, at last summer's joint European Society for Mathematical and Theoretical Biology (ESMTB)/SMB meeting in Amsterdam June 29 - July 3rd. After the meeting, discussion continued to explore the possibility of greater visibility for education in the Bulletin of Mathematical Biology. Lee Segel, Editor, approved of the idea of a special section entitled: "Classroom Notes." Since the re-establishment of the SMB education committee at the North Carolina State University meeting, he has welcomed educational articles for the journal. Unfortunately, to date, no manuscript has been deemed of sufficiently general and lasting significance to warrant journal space. However, it is hoped that a "Classroom Notes" section will be much more suitable for contributors. Please submit ideas or manuscripts directly to Dr. Segel. Matthew Miller, University of South Carolina, published elsewhere one such example: "Resource Competition in Algae: A Class Project in Mathematical Biology" which members may want to consult as an example.

Our committee has been asked again to organize an hour and a half symposium at the SMB meeting in Utah in August. Two out of four speakers have already volunteered; please contact me if you are interested in presenting. Lou Gross has sought to establish connections with a group in computational molecular biology that also has educational interests. Mark Lewis, Chair of this year's meeting, has indicated that equipment for computer demos and video projection will be available. We would also like to explore running a separate session for demonstrating materials to one another in a casual atmosphere for one-on-one interactions.

In the past ten years, special meetings on mathematical biology education have been held at campuses between annual meetings. These have been organized by Lou Gross, University of Tennessee - Knoxville (two different times); Jim Cornette, Iowa State University; Jorge X. Velasco Hernandez, UAM-Iztapalapa, Mexico; Anita Salem, Rockhurst College; and myself at Beloit College. We would welcome someone taking the initiative of organizing another such conference. I am sure that many members of the SMB Education Committee would gladly share their experiences in setting up these previous workshops.

SMB member Joe Mahaffy, San Diego State University, has posted his "Calculus for Biology" exercises on a web site for members to peruse and give him advice for improvement. These are updated from files currently published in The BioQUEST Library and are less dependent upon Maple and Excel. He is particularly eager to have "knowledgeable people give [him] additional good connections or web links to add to [his] site for related topics."

On a personal level, I can report the eagerness for a much more significant role of mathematics in biology education by the numerous requests to present a talk entitled "Ten Equations that Changed Biology and that Should Change Biology Education" which is based on an article that was published in Bioscene: Journal of College Biology Teaching in 1997. The institutions include Arizona State University, Indiana University, University of Massachusetts Amherst, St. Michael's College, University of Wisconsin Madison, University of Chicago, City University of New York, Rockhurst College, ... with invitations to present it at Ohio State University in April and University of Delaware in May. Everywhere I went, I was impressed with the readiness to think about the inclusion of much more mathematics in undergraduate biology education and for more use of problem solving approaches.

As usual, we ten members of the SMB Education Committee eagerly look forward to hearing suggestions from you about what we can do to improve the state of mathematical biology education.