Biological Sciences

Biology: One Equation at a Time (Full)

John Berges, Professor

Course: BIO SCI 194, SEM 001
Class Number: 52257
Credits: 3 NS
Time: R 3:00 - 4:50 PM
Place: LAP 258

Course Description:

Biology has been described as “the ideal major for the scientifically-inclined but mathematically-challenged”, but paradoxically, many of the most exciting recent discoveries in biology have relied on application of mathematical techniques. This seminar is intended to develop mathematical literacy among biology students, but also to introduce students of more mathematically-oriented sciences to the important applications of mathematics in biological sciences,
ranging from medicine to marine biology.

Work Involved:

The seminar explores critical biological questions using relatively simple equations (e.g. why do smaller organisms often lack circulatory systems? how can the effectiveness of drugs be improved?, why is predicting climate change so difficult?). Seminars involve interactive problem-solving and discussion, with some use of computers and a weekly online discussion/tutorial session. Only basic mathematical skills and biological background are assumed.

Goals of the seminar include: developing an appreciation of the critical importance of mathematics in all areas of biology, improving understanding of the application of specific mathematical approaches in biology, increasing confidence in quantitative problem-solving skills.

About the Instructor:

John Berges is a Professor in the Department of Biological Sciences and an affliliate in the School of Freshwater Sciences.He holds degrees in Marine Biology and Oceanography and has studied marine and freshwater ecosystems ranging from the Canadian High Arctic to the Great Barrier Reef in Australia.In Canada, N. Ireland and the U.S., he has tried to convince biology students that mathematics can be fun; his ten-year old son and his cat remain skeptical. John has mixed mathematical abilities: he does his own taxes and has memorized many biologically-important mathematical constants, but struggles to program his MP3 player and has trouble remembering his cell phone number.