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The role of Calculus in Biology?

  1. May 12, 2011 #1
    Hello to all. I work with someone who is majoring in Biology who hopes to become a medical doctor in time. I believe that at least at my school, calculus is not a part of the biology curriculum.

    I would like to know from those of you who know biology and calculus:

    1) How much of a role does calculus play in biology? Are there some biological systems which are most properly modeled by calc or differential equations?

    2) What about chains of biological interactions, especially those of medicines or different chemicals of the body? My intuition tells me that absorption rates and various chemical reaction rates are probably governed by differential equations.

    3) Is calc eventually required to study how medicines interact with the body?

    I'm just a curious engineer.
  2. jcsd
  3. May 12, 2011 #2
    Plenty of examples there.

    A notable use is in population genetics. For example making a mathematical model for analyzing allele frequency changing over time in a given population, or analyzing the spread of a disease in a population etc.

    In addition, genetic fitness always tends towards the local maxima. In fact a measure of genetic fitness uses calculus in its equation.http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fitness_(biology)#Hartl.27s_Definition

    Also check this.

    As you rightly said, it also has important uses in medicine. For example, you could have brain activity or heart rate as a function of drug concentration.

    There are many other examples as well. Other more qualified people here will definitely help, as I am currently studying both biology and calculus.
  4. May 12, 2011 #3

    Andy Resnick

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    Doctors have little use for calculus. Biomedical researchers, OTOH, should be reasonably fluent in calculus- it's required for any physio-chemical model of a biological process (reaction rates, energetics, imaging techniques, dosimetry, physiology, etc).
  5. May 12, 2011 #4
    if you went into pharmacy, you would have to study pharmacokinetics.

    years ago, i did computer sims of some control laws for drug kinetics using state space variables and kalman filters. that's more the engineering side, but the pharmacists still need to know the underlying math even if they are using computer programs to do all the work.
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