The panel felt that students interested in biology are opting to major in other disciplines because they do not feel quantitatively challenged in the traditional biology courses. They would like to attract these students by offering a quantitative track within the biology major. In a track designed for a quantitative biologist, a student might take one year of standard calculus, which many students now take in high school; one semester of linear algebra; one semester of statistics; a one-semester course on ordinary differential equations that includes some numerical work, possibly with packages such as Matlab; and one course on discrete mathematics tailored toward genome problems. These courses could be standard math classes and thus not add a burden on the biology department, although the discrete mathematics course could be of the type listed below for research biologists. Such a track can be flexibly designed for students with different educational goals. Some students may wish to pursue a career in biology that involves the development and analysis of models, databases, etc. Such students would require more education in math, computer science, and physical science than the wet-lab biologist who needs to be familiar with quantitative reasoning but who will not be creating new quantitative tools and analyses. Clearly, it is a difficult task to identify the needs of students in the earliest days of their entry into the study of biology, but if appropriate choices are available, students will self-select the track that fits their capabilities and interests.
In a track for research biologists, new courses are needed. The level of mathematics in this track would not be as great as for the quantitative biologist. However, more emphasis would need to be placed on motivating mathematics and statistics and showing how they are used. Rather than doing standard calculus, linear algebra, and differential equations, a one-year course on mathematics for biologists should be designed. This course should be based on biological examples and include methods of solving problems, but with more emphasis on standard packages, e.g. Matlab and Mathematica, than a course for mathematics majors or quantitative biologists. In addition, a second course (one semester or a year) encompassing ideas of genomics, bioinformatics, statistics and probability, discrete mathematics, the use of databases, tools for searching databases, and some introduction to programming or writing scripts should be implemented.
Students in either track would benefit from the opportunity to do basic research. The National Science Foundation Division of Mathematical Sciences (NSF DMS) funds a collection of REU (Research Experiences for Undergraduates) summer programs each year. Each program has 10-15