Monday, August 06, 2007

The mathematics of biology

After some time off, writing grant proposals, papers, and the like, I am back.

A number of interesting issues have emerged, including the role of mathematical literacy in understanding (rather than simply accepting) evolutionary biology and molecular processes.

My thinking has been particularly impacted by the article by Michael Lynch in PNAS, entitled "The frailty of adaptive hypotheses for the origins of organismal complexity"(it is free to download the pdf.)

It is clear that genetic drift has particularly profound effects at the molecular level in small populations, such as typical of speciating metazoans. Similarly, there is a recent paper in PloS One Population bottlenecks promote cooperation in bacterial biofilms provides evidence for the importance of random events (in this case a bottleneck) in bacterial evolution.

Clearly, an important question to consider is "what mathematical topics should be mastered by biology students."

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