|About the 2004 Topic
THE RATIONALE FOR THE MATH AND BIOLOGY THEME:
Modern biology has changed dramatically in the past two decades. Driven by large scientific endeavors such as the human genome project, it has become very much an information science, closely tied to tools and methods of the mathematical sciences. New algorithms and mathematical models played a central role in sequencing the human genome and continue to play a crucial role as biology develops models of information processing in biological organisms. Increasingly, undergraduate and graduate students are being exposed to this interplay between the mathematical and biological sciences. In high schools, the biology curriculum has made some advances by including such things as genetics and the human genome project, and even some of the mathematics in the Mendelian genetics model. There are also a few isolated efforts to bring biological examples into the mathematics classroom. But high schools are lagging behind. Current efforts need to be supported and new efforts developed to bring high school education up to speed in the integration of mathematics and biology. Students need to be exposed to the excitement of modern biology from both the biological and mathematical point of view. They need to be informed of the new educational and career opportunities that are arising from the interface between these disciplines. Introducing high school students to the interface between the biological and mathematical sciences will not only enhance the study of biology, but also the study of mathematics. Students interested in studying biology will realize the importance of understanding modern mathematics. New horizons will be opened for those who might find mathematics interesting, but wonder how it might be useful. There is the potential for all students to study mathematics both longer and more seriously because they are aware early of its importance in applications such as protecting us from bioterrorism, responses to public health crises, and understanding modern diseases.
This will be an exploratory two-week program featuring high school mathematics teachers (including those teaching computer science and statistics). The teachers will get an introduction to molecular biology, computational biology, and bioinformatics. They will learn about sequence alignment algorithms, finding the smallest number of mutations of a certain type to switch one sequence into another, algorithms for finding a sequence from its fragments, preconstruction of phylogenetic (evolutionary) trees, RNA structure prediction, and other mathematical techniques. They will also learn how mathematical modeling can be applied to the problems of stopping the spread of infectious diseases and defense against bioterrorist attacks. Computer lab sessions will introduce participants to key software tools of bioinformatics such as BLAST. The biological topics in the program will be self-contained -- we will introduce you to the requisite biology. The mathematics involved will be primarily discrete math and those who have some prior exposure to discrete math, especially graph theory (e.g., through prior participation in a DIMACS program) should have sufficient background to participate.
In the second week of the program, one group of teachers will engage in a research project (similar to the "traditional" DIMACS Connect Institute research experiences for teachers) under the guidance of researchers in computational biology and bioinformatics. They will also prepare research experiences for their students to bring back to their schools. A second group of teachers will produce classroom materials for use in their schools and possible later inclusion in the DIMACS Educational Modules Series, under the guidance of content experts in bio-math and experts in pedagogy. In applying to participate in the program, teachers can indicate which of these two components of the program they wish to participate in.
During the 2004-2005 academic year, there will be classroom visits by mentors and/or participants. Students will report on classroom activities at a conference in spring 2005.
The Education Program will be led by experienced college and university faculty and high school lead teachers-in-residence.
This will be an experiment and we are just now working on designing it. We expect that this will be the basis for many future programs of this sort at DIMACS and participants will have an opportunity to be in on the beginning of what we hope will be a pioneering venture at bringing the biological and mathematical sciences closer together in the high schools.
The financial support will consist of hotel (in a shared room), meals and a stipend of $720.
Participants who complete the program will receive 3 credits from the Graduate School of Education at Rutgers University.
The dates for the "Biomath DCI" are July 18 - July 30, 2004.