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Mathematical and Computational Models for the Life Sciences
The link below is the entry point to a Pomona College undergraduate course that uses mathematical processes, ranging from difference and differential equations to probability, to address topics in biological systems. Focusing on a fundamental problem in microbial genetics, students examine two hypotheses that explain why mutations in genetic material might lead to the development of bacteria that are resistant to certain adverse environmental conditions. The mutations might result from exposure to toxic conditions (the hypothesis of acquired hereditary immunity), or they might be random mutations that occur independently of adverse conditions (the hypothesis of mutation to immunity). The course goal is to develop the mathematical and computational machinery to deduce consequences from each of the two hypotheses, which were investigated in a 1943 study by scientists Salvador Luria and Max Delbrück. The online course materials include extensive lecture notes, assignments with solutions and exams with review problems and answers. Students learn to use MATLAB, powerful computational software, and have access to data files relevant to the topics covered.
Program Director: Bruce R. Telzer, Ph.D.
Award Years: 1988, 1996, 2004
Summary: Pomona College is a private baccalaureate institution in Claremont, California. Its HHMI-funded initiatives include:
- An undergraduate summer research program that enables students to work with faculty at Pomona College and other institutions in the United States and abroad;
- New and revised courses in mathematics and introductory physics for students in the life sciences and laboratory modules emphasizing interdisciplinary connections between biology and the physical sciences and math;
- Equipment for the Human Neuroscience Instructional Laboratory, which allows students to have early exposure to techniques for studying the human brain; and
- A summer seminar series, hosted jointly with Harvey Mudd College, for summer students and faculty.