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Studying Studying biology, but missing math

  1. Mar 30, 2012 #1
    That's my first year in college and I'm studying Biology. I'm pretty happy with everything (classmates, teachers) but the fact is, my favorite subjects so far have been maths and statistics (and my favorite teachers were from the math department).
    I study biology because, since I'm not sure in what field I'd like to work at, I can try a lot of different things (the subjects are very different one from another, and I like that).
    It hasn't been three months yet since I finished both maths and statistics and I miss it a lot. I'd rather attend three hours of math than one of botanics (which bores me to death), and lately I've been thinking about changing into math.
    But I'm not sure about math either, because I'd like to work with something related to nature (closely related). So, I'll be auditing a math class (I haven't had the chance yet, I'll try to begin after spring break), and I hope I'll be able to understand it, more or less.
    It's not only that I miss math, which I do, but that I'm a little bit concerned in my math level. If I end up specializing in something like mathematical biology (that's my plan for the moment), will I know enough math? In my college there's no specialization related to that (I'm ok with studying abroad), and almost nobody in my class is slightly interested in numbers, they hate them in fact, so I don't have any friends who have the same 'problem'.

    my question is: am I doing right, studying Biology and auditing math classes (and possibly reading books on math)? I'm a little bit confused...:(
  2. jcsd
  3. Mar 30, 2012 #2
    First, are thinking graduate school? If you are wanting to do any type of research then graduate school is necessary. This will allow you to specialize in a specific field. It sounds as if you may be interested in a biophysics program. Take a look here to see if it is something you may be interested in. If so, look around at different graduate programs to see what backgrounds they want for their incoming graduates.

    Many biophysics programs are housed in the biology or biochemistry departments but also in physics. Many of the biophysics grad programs housed in the physics department require a physics BS to apply while programs in the biology or biochem departments will take graduates from many different backgrounds. This includes biology, math, chemistry, biochemistry, physics, and even engineering. Most programs require preparation in math: calc I, II, III and Differential equations (and some beyond this) and some type of undergraduate training in biology, chemistry, and biochemistry. With this being said, if your lacking any of the subjects I just mentioned, most programs will allow you to take these courses as part of your graduate course work. This is simply because there are students coming from all different backgrounds and it is impossible in most cases for students to be sufficiently trained in ALL categories.

    Biophysics is great because there is so much variation in the research. You can be more on the physics side focusing on new imaging techniques and investigating how living matter organizes itself, the mathematics/computational side looking at the structures of biological macromolecules (structural biology) such as how proteins fold, or the biology/biochem side of things that focuses more on molecular mechanisms such as membrane ion channels (molecular biophysics). Keep in mind, this is just the tip of the iceberg and there is an unbelievable amount of overlap in all of the biophysics research. I am drawn to this field because I'm similar to yourself, I love biology but I also LOVE math and physics. Anyway there are many opportunities in this field for the future.
  4. Mar 30, 2012 #3
    I noticed that I didn't really answer your question about whether or not you will learn enough math... That is really up to how you spend your electives. You will certainly want to take more math classes than your other classmates. I would recommend taking calc through differential equations at the minimum.

    Now here is a little something to think about... The way I see it, it is much easier to learn mathematics as an undergrad and pick up the relevant biology as a graduate than vice versa. What you really need to ask yourself is "Am I really interested in biology from a biologists perspective?". What I mean by this is that you will be taking many biology classes that you may not necessarily be interested in (or ever actually use for that matter depending on your eventual interests) such as your botany class or ecology. On the other hand, mathematics will be giving you tools that you will be able to use and apply. Every math class is another tool in the toolkit. Also, most math degrees allow a lot of free electives where you would be able to take biology classes that you are actually interested in and that will benefit your goals. That is just something to think about.

    If you want to be a field biologist studying population ecology, certainly stay with biology. If you want to be a mathematical biologist or something similar, biology is one path but there are definitely other ways to play...
  5. Mar 31, 2012 #4
    Many thanks jbrussell93 for you reply! It's nice that your interests are similar to mine and the information you've given me has certainly helped me.

    I'll have to think about that (nobody had put it this way before...). I still have some months to decide, and I hope I'll enjoy college whatever I choose :)
  6. Mar 31, 2012 #5
    Do what you love and love what you do! I know it's a bit corney but definitely true in most cases. My biggest advice for you is to study and explore what you are interested in as an undergraduate. You will have plenty of time in graduate school to specialize in something more specific. Good luck and enjoy!
  7. Apr 8, 2012 #6
    Thank you very much! and good luck with your lecturing/research/whatever. You've really helped me:)
  8. Apr 8, 2012 #7
    yes, I am!
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