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Other Building a biology knowledge

  1. May 22, 2015 #1


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    Hi membraneinos! :)

    Mathematics is interesting and all. But sometimes I miss the touch for something real. So I am trying to expand my horizons a bit. And I think that perhaps biology would be fun to learn. So please recommend me any books in biology (but beware, I'm just a beginner!). Also, just in case I like it, how big are the odds of a mathematics major getting into biology grad school?

    Thanks a lot, dudes and dudettes!
  2. jcsd
  3. May 23, 2015 #2


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    If you are interested in the human body and its systems, the following book is supremely good, I would even say impossibly good. It's hard to imagine a book can be written with such quality (but obviously it can and this book is the proof).

    Human Physiology: From Cells to Systems

    There are newer editions but I've linked to the one I read.
    Another one seems to be Guyton & Hall. That one looks to be more ontological (what there is, how it works) whereas this one is more functional (what there is, what it does, how it does that).
    Last edited: May 23, 2015
  4. May 23, 2015 #3


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    Does that count as biology? I think science would say yes so that is why I posted it.
  5. May 23, 2015 #4
    Last edited by a moderator: May 7, 2017
  6. May 23, 2015 #5


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    I'm going to be following this thread, because I'm looking to expand my biology knowledge as well. I haven't had the opportunity to take any biology throughout my college career, and as much as I love physics and math, I do think it's important to be well rounded and have a solid base in all of the main scientific fields.
  7. May 24, 2015 #6


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    I haven't read freshman biology for a very long time, so I don't know what the current textbooks are, but it is basically like physics or maths - you can use the equivalent of Stewart :) OK, kidding, I never read Stewart, let's say a good book like Young or Halliday and Resnick. If a free online version is available in the PubMed library, I have listed it, but they are hard to read in that format, so I should say those also exist as regular books.

    Personal favourites
    https://www.amazon.com/Five-Kingdoms-Illustrated-Guide-Phyla/dp/0716730278 (Maybe outdated in specifics, if you follow Ygggdrasil's posts about domains of life. However, Lynn Margulis proposed endosymbiosis, an example of first rate biological thinking.)
    https://www.amazon.com/The-Problems-Evolution-Mark-Ridley/dp/0192191942 (Old pop sci book, again maybe outdated on specifics)
    https://www.amazon.com/Recombinant-DNA-Genomes-Course-Edition/dp/0716728664 (One can also get the cheaper earlier editions. I read the second edition.)
    http://faculty.uca.edu/benw/biol4415/papers/mickey.pdf (Classic by Gould)

    Freshman biology



    Cell and Molecular Biology

    Developmental biology

    Just in case you would like to see "quantum field theory" in action in biology, here is

    The Kuramoto model is intended to capture some aspects of fireflies.

    For advice on a mathematician doing biology, you may also like to write to Nancy Kopell http://math.bu.edu/people/nk/. I have never met her, but her work is fabulous and related to stuff I work on.
    Last edited: May 24, 2015
  8. May 24, 2015 #7
  9. May 24, 2015 #8


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    @atyy - Wonderful post! I'm looking to start basically at freshman level biology. I'm not sure how far past that I'll get for the time being, but those look like some excellent books for future reading. I may pick up a biology book to spend some time with this summer. Although between my internship and the stuff I'm already self studying this summer, I may not have a lot of time.
  10. May 27, 2015 #9
    I strongly recommend Campbell Biology !
    Last edited: May 27, 2015
  11. May 27, 2015 #10
    Physics majors usually do the best in grad school even if it's not related to physics because majoring in physics teaches one how to think critically and creatively. It has been reported that engineering and physics majors score the highest grades in the MCAT. I really do believe that physics, and math as well, is an excellent preparation for many grad schools, and accordingly it's an excellent preparation for many careers.
    I don't see any odds as long as you are intensely interested in Biology. Being a math major, you will do very well.

    Most physicists like studying biology at the cellular and molecular level. They don't get very interested in anything else.
    Last edited: May 28, 2015
  12. May 27, 2015 #11


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  13. May 28, 2015 #12
    And like Eric Lander who is a mathematician, who got his Math degree from Princeton and went to Oxford for graduate school. And now he is a Professor of Biology at MIT. He has devoted his career to realizing the promise of the human genome for medicine.
    I'm a big fan of this guy, he's a genius !
    Last edited: May 28, 2015
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