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Mathematics major for Microbiology

  1. Jul 18, 2014 #1

    I am a rising sophomore with a major in microbiology. I wrote this post to seek out the advice from you in terms of double majoring with the mathematics. Although my primary interest is on the microbiology (especially the virology), I am also deeply interested in the fields of number theory and linear differential equations; since my interest also lies in the pure mathematics, I was thinking about doing double majors in both microbiology and mathematics. However, several of my research lab friends and upper-class students told me that the best mathematical program that correlates well with the microbiology is either an applied mathematics or a statistics. They discouraged me about majoring in a mathematics. Should I double majors in a microbiology and mathematics or statistics? My impression is that the applied mathematics is not hard to learn once I have the strong knowledge in a pure mathematics, since the applied math basically originates from the ideas of pure math (please correct me if I am wrong).

    Fore more information, I have been working in the virology lab that focuses on the mathematical modeling and genetic analysis of the influenza viruses and HIV; mathematical modeling requires a huge knowledge in a vector calculus, linear algebra, and geometry.

    I look forward to your advice!
  2. jcsd
  3. Jul 18, 2014 #2
    I'm not sure that's a useful way of thinking about it, and applied math is some combination of "pure" and applied ideas, as is pure math itself. A better way to think about it would be in terms of what classes you are going to take and which are going to be applicable. If you need vector calculus, linear algebra, and geometry, why not just study that? If you take a class like abstract algebra, I'm not sure it will be very useful. Real analysis probably wouldn't be directly useful, but if you study it the right way, it can enhance your understanding of calculus. Of course, not every class you take has to be 100% directly applicable. However, the fact is that it takes serious effort to learn the material and life is short. You don't have time to study every subject under the sun. Therefore, some consideration of relevance is necessary. Also, I tend to think it's better to pick things up as needed. Easier to retain what you learn, as opposed to seeing things as just random subjects that you learn just for their own sake.

    I don't know that much about biology. It's conceivable that if you take the road less traveled, that you'll have knowledge and perspective that not many people have. But it's also conceivable you'd waste a lot of time on things that aren't that relevant to your goals. I'm guessing a middle path might be best. An applied math degree isn't that different from a pure math one.
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