Highlights of the Special Issue of BMB on Mathematical Biology Education

Monday, June 14 at 09:30am (PDT)
Monday, June 14 at 05:30pm (BST)
Tuesday, June 15 01:30am (KST)

SMB2021 SMB2021 Follow Monday (Tuesday) during the "MS01" time block.
Note: this minisymposia has multiple sessions. The second session is MS02-EDUC (click here).

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John R Jungck (University of Delaware, USA), Raina Robeva (Randolph Macon College, USA), Louis Gross (University of Tennessee, USA)


In 2020, a co-edited special issue of the Bulletin of Mathematical Biology dedicated to Mathematical Biology Education was published. This mini-symposium will be helpful to the mathematical biology community to alert them to important progress that these authors have worked so hard to achieve as well as share broadly. It addressed the history of collaboration of biologists and mathematicians in addressing numerous challenges since the 1962 symposium which articulated so many issues that we continued to have to address today. The invited colleagues have been active in national reforms efforts, have run workshops and institutes for faculty and students, have developed numerous curricular materials, edited undergraduate research journals, prepared secondary educators to include more modeling and applications in their teaching, and addressed the challenges of data science for our collective work. Also we will share new guidelines for new education oriented manuscripts to be submitted to the Bulletin of Mathematical Biology under three categories: Education Research Articles, Module Examples, and Review Articles.

Midge Cozzens

(Rutgers University, USA)
"Introductory College Mathematics for the Life Sciences: Has Anything Changed?"
Our paper focused on issues concerning the introductory college mathematics sequence with an emphasis on students interested in the life sciences, and concentration on the time after the publication of BIO2010. It also explored the potential uses of books targeted at introductory mathematics courses for life science majors today. As relevant background, we looked at the evolution of the way that calculus has been taught over the past 50 years, including at the high school level. We also explored the implications of changes in technology and course delivery, such as online education. As we discussed different books and introductory course ideas, we focused on the needs of biology students, inclusion of real-world problems and models, the role of technology, and the impact of data science. Our paper dealt with 8 issues: Section 1 provided some personal background with calculus dating back to the 70’s, and changes in calculus prior to BIO2010. Section 2 introducesd goals for an introductory mathematics sequence and evaluates the calculus sequence in light of those goals. Sections 3-7 discussed various issues that will help to understand issues and challenges for introductory mathematics for the life sciences: Calculus in high school (Section 3), equity issues relative to calculus and other math topics (Section 4), the impact of online education (Section 5), math as a stumbling block for college students (Section 6), and the increasing importance and value of teaching data science (Section 7). Section 8 reviewed the development of books in light of these issues and challenges. The last section (Section 9) summarizes conclusions.

Melissa Aikens

(University of New Hampshire, USA)
"Advances and Challenges in Undergraduate Biology Education"
Over the last 25 years, reforms in undergraduate biology education have transformed the way biology is taught at many institutions of higher education. This has been fueled in part by a burgeoning discipline-based education research community, which has advocated for evidence-based instructional practices based on findings from research. This perspective reviews some of the changes to undergraduate biology education that have gained or are currently gaining momentum, becoming increasingly common in undergraduate biology classrooms. However, there are still areas in need of improvement. Although more underrepresented minority students are enrolling in and graduating from biology programs than in the past, there is a need to understand the experiences and broaden participation of other underserved groups in biology and ensure biology classroom learning environments are inclusive. Additionally, although understanding biology relies on understanding concepts from the physical sciences and mathematics, students still rarely connect the concepts they learn from other STEM disciplines to biology. Integrating concepts and practices across the STEM disciplines will be critical for biology graduates as they tackle the biological problems of the 21st century.

Raina Robeva

(Randolph Macon College, USA)
"Changing the Nature of Quantitative Biology Education: Data Science as a Driver"
We live in a data-rich world with rapidly growing databases with zettabytes of data. Innovation, computation, and technological advances have now tremendously accelerated the pace of discovery, providing driverless cars, robotic devices, expert healthcare systems, precision medicine, and automated discovery to mention a few. Even though the definition of the term data science continues to evolve, the sweeping impact it has already produced on society is undeniable. We are at a point when new discoveries through data science have enormous potential to advance progress but also to be used maliciously, with harmful ethical and social consequences. Perhaps nowhere is this more clearly exemplified than in the biological and medical sciences. The confluence of (1) machine learning, (2) mathematical modeling, (3) computation/simulation, and (4) big data have moved us from the sequencing of genomes to gene editing and individualized medicine; yet, unsettled policies regarding data privacy and ethical norms could potentially open doors for serious negative repercussions. The data science revolution has amplified the urgent need for a paradigm shift in undergraduate biology education. It has reaffirmed that data science education interacts and enhances mathematical education in advancing quantitative conceptual and skill development for the new generation of biologists. These connections encourage us to strive to cultivate a broadly skilled workforce of technologically savvy problem-solvers, skilled at handling the unique challenges pertaining to biological data, and capable of collaborating across various disciplines in the sciences, the humanities, and the social sciences. To accomplish this, we suggest development of open curricula that extend beyond the job certification rhetoric and combine data acumen with modeling, experimental, and computational methods through engaging projects, while also providing awareness and deep exploration of their societal implications. This process would benefit from embracing the pedagogy of experiential learning and involve students in open-ended explorations derived from authentic inquiries and ongoing research. On this foundation, we encourage development of flexible data science initiatives for the education of life science undergraduates within and across existing models.

Padmanabhan Seshaiyer

(George Mason University, USA)
"Conneccting with teachers through Modeling Mathematical Biology"
We describe some effective teaching and research practices that can help to integrate mathematics and biology efficiently to enhance student learning at all levels. One of the successful approaches proposed is to employ mathematical modeling that can help transform pedagogical practices. In this regard, we introduce some modeling activities that have been shared with teachers through professional development programs and hav been incorporated in the classrooms. We also present how engaging teachers in research experiences in mathematical modeling can help to transform their pedagogical practices and provide opportunities for students to consider pursuing areas at the interface of mathematics and biology.

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Virtual conference of the Society for Mathematical Biology, 2021.