UBM: An Undergraduate Biology and Mathematics Training Program at NJIT

Project: Research project

Project Details


Intellectual Merit: The enormous recent interest in biological research by physicists, computer scientists, engineers and mathematicians has been inspired in part by advances in mathematics, computing capabilities, and the realization that biological systems are often amenable to study as complex dynamical systems.

This has led to a growing interest in exploring potential applications of these new tools and ideas within the biological sciences. On the other hand, almost all disciplines in biology, including neurobiology, biophysics, ecology, and cellular and molecular biology, have seen a rising interest and need for cross-disciplinary research with mathematics.

The investigators are developing an Undergraduate Biology and Mathematics Training Program (UBMTP) to educate undergraduate students in an environment in which mathematics and biology are intimately linked at both the curricular as well as the research level. A primary goal is to teach students the separate languages of mathematicians and biologists so that these students will be able to converse with either language, and to understand both. Students who emerge from this program are able to study biological problems from an analytic and modeling point of view. They are also capable of applying mathematical techniques to biological problems and are able to translate biological questions to mathematical ones, and mathematical answers to biological ones.

Broader Impact: While the recent history of collaboration between mathematicians with experimentalists has proved fruitful, it has been so short that very few researchers have 'grown up' with the idea that mathematics and biology are, or could be, intimately linked. Instead, most of the current interdisciplinary researchers began their careers working solely in either mathematics (or a related area) or biology, and only switched into the other field at the post-doctoral level or later. While bringing new and fresh ideas to the other camp, these researchers needed, and continue to need, a significant time to acquire expertise in their new interdisciplinary field. This project begins the interdisciplinary training of students at an early stage of their careers, namely at the undergraduate level.

The goal is to enhance the biological abilities of mathematicians and mathematical abilities of biologists. At a more fundamental level, the project trains students to recognize how mathematics and biology complement one another, thereby allowing them to not only formulate novel hypotheses, but also equipping them with the tools needed to test their predictions. The training program is based on the following aims:

1) Conduct targeted recruitment of students majoring in biology and mathematics.

2) Develop a directed interdisciplinary curriculum for the UBMTP.

3) Train students to conduct independent research.

4) Foster scientific discussion and interactions.

The proposed program brings together 14 investigators from the Department of Mathematical Sciences and the Federated Department of Biological Sciences, a department that includes not only NJIT faculty but Rutgers-Newark faculty as well. The faculty of both departments appear to have a long tradition of interdisciplinary and collaborative research. The large number of faculty provides broad possibilities for research projects. These include neurobiology, developmental biology and ecology. Students gain an in depth experience that spans two academic years and the intervening summer, providing outstanding continuity.

Effective start/end date9/15/048/31/10


  • National Science Foundation: $672,514.00


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