Working towards integration of education and research in the
mathematical and computational sciences and the biological sciences.
July 17 - July 29, 2005
WHY THIS PROGRAM?
THE INTERFACE BETWEEN THE BIOLOGICAL AND THE MATHEMATICAL SCIENCES AT THE
HIGH SCHOOL LEVEL
Modern biology has changed dramatically in the past two decades. Driven
by large scientific endeavors such as the human genome project, it has
become very much an information science, closely tied to tools and methods
of the mathematical sciences. New algorithms and mathematical models played
a central role in sequencing the human genome and continue to play a crucial
role as biology develops models of information processing in biological
organisms. Increasingly, undergraduate and graduate students are being
exposed to this interplay between the mathematical and biological sciences.
In high schools, the biology curriculum has made some advances by including
such things as genetics and the human genome project, and even some of the
mathematics in the Mendelian genetics model. There are also a few isolated
efforts to bring biological examples into the mathematics classroom. But
high schools are lagging behind. Current efforts need to be supported and
new efforts developed to bring high school education up to speed in the
integration of mathematics and biology. Students need to be exposed to the
excitement of modern biology from both the biological and mathematical point
of view. They need to be informed of the new educational and career
opportunities that are arising from the interface between these disciplines.
Introducing high school students to the interface between the biological and
mathematical sciences will not only enhance the study of biology, but also
the study of mathematics. Students interested in studying biology will
realize the importance of understanding modern mathematics. New horizons
will be opened for those who might find mathematics interesting, but wonder
how it might be useful.
This will be an exploratory two-week program featuring high school
mathematics teachers (including those teaching computer science and
statistics) and biology teachers. Participants will work in pairs consisting
of teachers from the two disciplines. We prefer applications from a pair of
teachers from the same school. However, you may apply with a colleague from
another school. If you apply as an individual, we will pair you up with a
faculty member from the other discipline. Math teachers will get a short
tutorial on modern biology. Biology teachers will get a short tutorial on
certain relevant topics in mathematics. All teachers will be introduced in
depth and together to topics in computational biology and bioinformatics.
They will learn about sequence alignment algorithms, finding the smallest
number of mutations of a certain type to switch one sequence into another,
algorithms for finding a sequence from its fragments, reconstruction of
phylogenetic (evolutionary) trees, RNA structure prediction, and other
mathematical techniques. They will also learn how mathematical modeling can
be applied to the problems of stopping the spread of infectious diseases and
defense against bioterrorist attacks. Computer lab sessions will introduce
participants to key software tools of bioinformatics such as BLAST.
In the second week of the program, one group of teachers will engage in a
research project under the guidance of researchers in computational biology
and bioinformatics. They will also prepare research experiences for their
students to bring back to their schools. A second group of teachers will
produce classroom materials for use in their schools and possible later
inclusion in the DIMACS Educational Modules Series, under the guidance of
content experts in bio-math and experts in pedagogy. In applying to
participate in the program, teachers should indicate which of these two
components of the program they wish to participate in.
During the 2005-2006 academic year, partners will engage in joint
follow-up activities with their partner: Team teaching, experimenting with a
lesson to the other's class, joint student projects. They will also
supervise student projects and pilot materials developed by other teachers.
Students will report on classroom activities and projects at a conference in
This will be an experiment and we are just now working on designing it.
We expect that this will be the basis for many future programs at DIMACS and
participants will have an opportunity to be in on the beginning of what we
hope will be a pioneering venture at bringing the biological and
mathematical sciences closer together in the high schools.