Biomedical mathematics, also called biomathematics, combines life science, chemistry, physics, software development and mathematics. Students learn to develop new mathematical techniques to create models out of data from recent medical innovations. At the master's and doctoral levels, students move beyond the more straightforward coursework of bachelor's degree programs and begin selecting topics of research, such as statistical modeling or enzyme structure.
Bachelor of Science in Biomathematics
Traditionally, mathematics has been applied to physics and engineering; the need to apply mathematics to biological problems has been a recent one, due to advances in life sciences. Biomathematics helps scientists to predict population growth and epidemics, as well as to understand how tumors grow. Students in 4-year biomathematics programs examine mathematical reasoning, statistics and differential equations. Applicants to undergraduate biomathematics programs must have a high school diploma. Coursework typically includes:
- Organic chemistry
- Technical writing
Master of Science in Biomathematics
Graduate students in biomathematics use mathematical techniques to solve problems in toxicology, neurobiology, ecology and infectious disease. By analyzing how viruses develop, biologists can understand how to exploit weaknesses and keep invasive organisms at bay. Programs can take up to 24-months to complete. Applicants must have a grade point average of 3.0. They are also required to hold an undergraduate degree in mathematics or a related science.
Graduate programs offer coursework in biological systems, along with mathematical modeling. Original research projects and a thesis are typically included in the curriculum. Topics of study may include:
- Computer simulation techniques
- Clinical research methodology
- Data analysis
Ph.D. in Biomathematics
Professional biomathematicians interested in designing original research are required to have earned a Ph.D. Graduates are qualified to research topics like human platelet response to a stem cell transplant. Programs take 2-3 years to complete for students with no previous graduate training. Applicants entering with a relevant master's degree can expect to finish this program of study in 18-24 months.
Applicants are required to have a background in advanced mathematics, like abstract algebra or complex variables; backgrounds in biology and computer programming are recommended, but not required. Students must also submit recommendation letters and a statement of purpose.
Doctoral-level programs allow students to focus studies on a specific area of interest, like enzyme structure, nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy or statistical modeling in chemistry. In addition to coursework and seminars, students must write and defend a dissertation. Coursework includes:
- Computational mathematics
- Membrane biophysics
- Partial differential equations
- Statistical interference
- Stochastic calculus
With a Ph.D. in biomathematics, employment options can be found in biological research and computer science related fields, working in research and development for universities or the federal government. Insurance, computer science and engineering fields also hire biomathematicians. Common job titles include:
- Biomathematics professor
- Quality control analyst
- Systems analyst
Employment Outlook and Salary Information
Master's degree-holders qualify for entry-level mathematician careers within the federal government. The BLS projected 21% job growth for mathematicians from 2014-2024. As of May 2015, the mean annual wage for mathematicians in general was $112,560, while those in the federal executive branch brought in $108,890 per year.
Overall, biomathematics programs are highly interdisciplinary, integrating a wide range of scientific disciplines. Bachelor's degree programs are primarily introductory, while graduate students undertake more advanced studies and independent research projects.