expected to be equally competent in all the relevant areas of physics, chemistry, mathematics, and engineering. Nevertheless, as a guide to the key biologically relevant ideas in these areas, and to stimulate discussion of what constitutes the core knowledge for the new biological curricula, the report begins by offering what is believed to be the central concepts of chemistry, physics, engineering, and mathematics that are most relevant to biology. Following these concepts are four examples of potential undergraduate biology curricula that would be appropriate for future biomedical researchers. These examples are not meant to discourage the use of alternate curricula that also cover the content of mathematics and physical and information sciences. Many of the courses listed have familiar titles in order to illustrate that many of the recommendations found in this report could be implemented through existing courses. However, the content of the courses would likely be altered to increase the integration of the different sciences.
Throughout this report the committee uses the term “quantitative biology” to refer to a biology in which mathematics and computing serve as essential tools in framing experimental questions, analyzing experimental data, generating models, and making predictions that can be tested. In quantitative biology, the multifaceted relationships between molecules, cells, organisms, species, and communities are characterized and comprehended by finding structure in massive data sets that span different levels of biological organization. It is a science in which new computational, physical, and chemical tools are sought and applied to gain a deeper and more coherent understanding of the biological world that has strong predictive power.
Communicating how scientific advances and discoveries are made is a crucial part of undergraduate scientific education. First, exposure to the experimental and conceptual basis of key discoveries gives students a deeper understanding of scientific principles. Reading a classic paper can give students a sense of scientific inquiry at its best. Students can gain much by considering questions such as: What motivated the study? How were the experiments designed? What new experimental methods or analytical approaches were needed? How surprising was the outcome? How did the discovery influence the future course of science? Second, by exploring how discoveries are made, students acquire an appreciation of the history and culture of science. Science becomes a human endeavor that spans time and space. Third, scientific discoveries are inspirational. They stimulate stu-