Is it common for for math/physics majors to have trouble in biology?

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In summary: Gobbledygook to me. In summary, while I had some difficulty with this first bio class, I am still doing well in math and physics. I think that if I had not taken this intro to biology class, I would have been at a disadvantage for the research position.
  • #1
MidgetDwarf
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Math majors and physics majors have to take introduction to biology as a graduation requirement. This biology class is the one required for biology majors. It is the first class in Bio majors sequence.

I am spending some considerable time on the material, almost all my studying time, and I am having difficulty understanding the material. I currently have a high B in the course. This B is largely thanks to my grade during lab.

I am dull majoring in mathematics/physics. In my math/physics and doing extremely well. These are all upper division courses. I am even taking an intro to Graph Theory (theoretical). It is a bit odd to me that I am doing well in math/physics, but having a hard time with intro bio.

Is this a common scenario for math/physics majors?
 
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I was a Physics major and had to take Chemistry in college. We may have had a choice of Chemistry or Biology but I can't remember. I had a lot of trouble in Chemistry especially because it seemed the notions of entropy and thermodynamics were described differently from Physics.I remember specifically having trouble with GIbb's free energy but now I don't remember why exactly, I guess that's a good thing the trauma is now buried deeply.

The reason for these other courses is to broaden your understanding and round out your education. Later in grad school you can fully specialize in one thing to the exclusion of everything else.

Also keep in mind that some scientific discoveries occur because you're able to bring together things from filed into another and cross educating you sets the stage for that. I think Linus Pauling's discoveries were of that nature.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Linus_Pauling

Bottom line hang in there. It's only a semester and then you're done right?
 
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  • #3
MidgetDwarf said:
Is this a common scenario for math/physics majors?
I would say yes and no.
For the no part, I don't believe that it's common for math and physics majors to be required to have an intro biology class. My guess is that this requirement is specific to your college or possibly to state schools in your state. There might have been some gen ed science requirements at the school where I received my undergrad (a state college in WA state), but there was no specific biology requirement. The only biology class I have taken in my entire life was a field botany class that I took as an elective, to be able to identify native flowers and plants that grow in my area.

For the yes part, the study of biology requires a lot of memorization, from what I understand. There is some memorization needed in math or physics, but much of the rest you can reason out using logic.
 
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  • #4
jedishrfu said:
I was a Physics major and had to take Chemistry in college. We may have had a choice of Chemistry or Biology but I can't remember. I had a lot of trouble in Chemistry especially because it seemed the notions of entropy and thermodynamics were described differently from Physics.I remember specifically having trouble with GIbb's free energy but now I don't remember why exactly, I guess that's a good thing the trauma is now buried deeply.

The reason for these other courses is to broaden your understanding and round out your education. Later in grad school you can fully specialize in one thing to the exclusion of everything else.

Also keep in mind that some scientific discoveries occur because you're able to bring together things from filed into another and cross educating you sets the stage for that. I think Linus Pauling's discoveries were of that nature.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Linus_Pauling

Bottom line hang in there. It's only a semester and then you're done right?

Yeah, I only need this one class. It is over in mid December. I just found it odd, how a class that is considered basic, is giving me a hard time. I am kind of disappointed in myself. I was offered a research position in mathematical modeling, in regards to biological systems, with a nice stipend. This position is guaranteed. I do not think I will take up the offer, because I would have to take a bit more Biology, and it would ruin my gpa/ cause issues with my math/physics courses.
 
  • #5
Mark44 said:
For the yes part, the study of biology requires a lot of memorization, from what I understand. There is some memorization needed in math or physics, but much of the rest you can reason out using logic.
I agree and think that this is a critical difference. Both math and physics have evolved in ways to make it easier to apply logic to basic facts and understand what is going on. Nature is not always like that -- especially where diversity gives a survival advantage. My impression after a brief excursion into bioengineering is that biology can be incredibly complicated. Some things seem like a Rube Goldberg machine and memorization can be much more important than logic.
 
  • #6
MidgetDwarf said:
Yeah, I only need this one class. It is over in mid December. I just found it odd, how a class that is considered basic, is giving me a hard time. I am kind of disappointed in myself. I was offered a research position in mathematical modeling, in regards to biological systems, with a nice stipend. This position is guaranteed. I do not think I will take up the offer, because I would have to take a bit more Biology, and it would ruin my gpa/ cause issues with my math/physics courses.

Don’t do that based on this course, I’m sure it will be more math and physics with some biologist assisting you with things you don’t understand. This is an exciting new field for physicists and it would be a shame if you passed it up because of this course.
 
  • #7
MidgetDwarf said:
Yeah, I only need this one class. It is over in mid December. I just found it odd, how a class that is considered basic, is giving me a hard time. I am kind of disappointed in myself. I was offered a research position in mathematical modeling, in regards to biological systems, with a nice stipend. This position is guaranteed. I do not think I will take up the offer, because I would have to take a bit more Biology, and it would ruin my gpa/ cause issues with my math/physics courses.
But, are you interested in the position??
 
  • #8
jedishrfu said:
Don’t do that based on this course, I’m sure it will be more math and physics with some biologist assisting you with things you don’t understand. This is an exciting new field for physicists and it would be a shame if you passed it up because of this course.

You are right. I remember I did not like Physics, not because I found it difficult, but because of the lack of rigor of my intro mechanics course. I liked physics during the intro to EM.

The person who I would be working with is also my math teacher (mentor) for the research. Very helpful person. Thinking about it now, the lack of wanting to commit to the research opportunity is due to my mentor holding in high regard. I do not want to disappoint this person. For some reason, this person thinks i am brighter than what I really am. I am able to preform due to my work ethic, not because I am "bright."
 
  • #9
symbolipoint said:
But, are you interested in the position??

Yes, mathematical modeling is something that I can see myself doing. It would allow me to combine my future math/physics degrees, and make what I call a good salary. Not only that, it can help with grad school applications further down the road.
 
  • #10
MidgetDwarf said:
You are right. I remember I did not like Physics, not because I found it difficult, but because of the lack of rigor of my intro mechanics course. I liked physics during the intro to EM.

The person who I would be working with is also my math teacher (mentor) for the research. Very helpful person. Thinking about it now, the lack of wanting to commit to the research opportunity is due to my mentor holding in high regard. I do not want to disappoint this person. For some reason, this person thinks i am brighter than what I really am. I am able to preform due to my work ethic, not because I am "bright."

I would trust your mentor. He sees something in you that you cannot yet see. My nephew had this same problem. He was very smart and had taken some programming courses in C. A family friend got him an interview at a major company looking for a C programmer. He torpedoed the interview by saying he didn’t know C. I was flabbergasted when I heard what happened. He told m he didn’t think he kne know it well enough. I had to tell him you need to let the interviewer decide that. In the end, he got a second interview, got the job and did quite well.

The moral is trust your mentors.
 
  • #11
Chemistry was much easier for me than Biology. But I will say something that may really help is using Pneumonic (however you spell it) devices to memorize all the stuff. Most of Biology is memorization which makes it hard to "think" your way through a test. Cant say I liked that class at all...
 
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  • #12
DS2C said:
Chemistry was much easier for me than Biology. But I will say something that may really help is using Pneumonic (however you spell it) devices to memorize all the stuff. Most of Biology is memorization which makes it hard to "think" your way through a test. Cant say I liked that class at all...
Mnemonic
;
otherwise you should have been able to recognize the combining-form and word relating to lung.
 
  • #13
symbolipoint said:
Mnemonic
;
otherwise you should have been able to recognize the combining-form and word relating to lung.
There we go. I knew it was wrong but related it to pneumatic. Maybe need a mnemonic for mnemonic lol.
 
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Related to Is it common for for math/physics majors to have trouble in biology?

1. Is it common for math/physics majors to struggle with biology?

It is not uncommon for math/physics majors to find biology challenging. The fields of math, physics, and biology require different ways of thinking and different skill sets. Many students may find it difficult to switch between the analytical and quantitative approach of math and physics to the more descriptive and experimental approach of biology.

2. What are the main reasons for math/physics majors to have difficulty in biology?

The main reasons for math/physics majors to struggle with biology can vary. Some students may not have a strong background in biology or may find it less interesting compared to their preferred subjects. Others may have difficulty with the memorization and terminology required in biology. Additionally, the different approach to problem-solving in biology can also be challenging for math/physics majors.

3. Can math/physics majors still do well in biology with extra effort?

Yes, with extra effort and dedication, math/physics majors can certainly excel in biology. While their strengths may lie in other subjects, putting in extra time and effort to understand the concepts and terminology in biology can lead to success. Additionally, seeking help from a tutor or participating in study groups can also be beneficial.

4. Are there any tips for math/physics majors to improve in biology?

Some tips for math/physics majors struggling with biology include actively engaging in class and taking notes, seeking help from a tutor or professor, and finding connections between biology concepts and their strengths in math/physics. Additionally, breaking down larger concepts into smaller, more manageable parts can also help with understanding and retention.

5. How important is biology for a career in math or physics?

The importance of biology for a career in math or physics can vary depending on the specific field. While biology may not be directly related to math or physics, it can have applications in certain industries such as biotechnology or environmental science. Additionally, having a well-rounded education and understanding of various subjects can be beneficial for problem-solving and critical thinking in any career.

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