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Background: Studies in Life Science traditionally have put less emphasis on mathematical training than other scientific disciplines like physics and engineering. Yet, an increasing fraction of biological problems can only be addressed with some level of mathematical, statistical or computational support. Accordingly, today an expanding community of formally trained scientists studies biological problems. At the same time many biologists lack basic knowledge and experience in applying mathematical concepts and tools to assist their research.

Concept: The fact that a significant number of biology students are uncomfortable in using mathematics may be rooted already in their high school education or even beyond. The frontal courses offered to biology students at UNIL (which are usually taught by EPFL lecturers) may help brushing up basic mathematical skills of some students, but are unlikely to reach those who have long lost their interest and self-confidence in solving mathematical problems.

The central idea of this course is to offer an alternative which aims at gaining mathematical strength by addressing a practical problem within a biological question which can only be solved with some piece of mathematics. Thus the emphasis is on learning by doing rather than an abstract approach where mathematical insights are detached from biological applications: Small groups of two to four students will be jointly supervised by a “biologist” and a “mathematician” (or people with a mutual background in some cases) in well-defined biological projects that require a particular mathematical skill.

Target audience: This is an optional course open to UNIL students from their third semester in life science studies. While it is focused at BA students it is also open to other interested students.

(back to main page of Course: "Solving Biological Problems that require Math")