Biomathematics: an essential component to any science major

Aristotle, Fibonacci and Einstein are among the most important mathematicians who have made vital contributions to life science. Within the past four decades, scientists have applied sophisticated mathematics to solve problems in genetics and epidemics.Since biology and mathematics clearly intertwine, students in the biology department should address the growing field of biomathematics. For example, a system of ordinary differential equations and vectors are needed to simulate the cell cycle, and more specifically, different protein reactions within the cell’s life. Director of system sciences at Arizona State University Frank Hoppensteadt published a paper on the growing field of biomathematics in Sept. 1995. He discussed the mathematical models used to capture the ionic currents in neurons, which better allow scientists to understand how the brain and nervous system works. My goal in citing Hoppensteadt’s article is not to discuss old research and discoveries, but to show how mathematical concepts have been aiding modern scientific discovery for decades. It’s not just physics that should be considered applied mathematics; it’s all science. Professor of biology Gregg Hartvigsen, who also teaches biomathematics, deals with mathematics and statistics for modeling biological systems. If you want to know how Hartvigsen computes his statistics or almost anything else he does, he’ll be more than happy to say he uses R. For those of you lucky enough to never have had been frustrated by it, R is a computer programming language quite similar to C or C++ that is used almost primarily for statistical analysis. This is a crucial tool in experimental sciences. The sheer number of “how to” books about R for scientists sold on Amazon should be reason enough to listen to our biology department staff when they tell us how important of a skill they’re teaching us. We live in a world that is made up of nothing but patterns. As scientists, we need the mathematical principles to describe what is happening in our surroundings and ourselves. In this day and age, it is vital that we have some semblance of skill in biomathematics before we head into graduate school or worse, into the job market.