Master's in Mathematical Biology

Nov 07, 2018

Students who are inclined in combining mathematics and biology by studying both fields at the graduate level may be interested in pursuing a master's degree in mathematical biology. These degree programs are available at several universities around the country and we will focus on these programs in general by highlighting courses that are often part of the curriculum, in addition to the admission standards.

Information About Master's Degrees in Mathematical Biology

The field of mathematical biology can typically be studied either as the focus of a Master of Science degree or as a concentration or specialization within a mathematics or biomathematics degree. Below, we will look at five different courses that are commonly included in the curriculum of these degree programs. Courses in these programs are often offered through the mathematics department, biology department, and other related academic departments.

Mathematical Modeling

In a course focused on mathematical modeling, students will learn about the various processes and techniques involved in mathematical modeling. Topics that may be discussed in this course could include discrete models, partial differential equations, and optimization. Some programs may also offer a course that focuses specifically on biological mathematical modeling. In course with this type of focus, students will learn how to apply quantitative modeling methods to fields like biology and ecology.


A master's in biological mathematics may offer students a course in epidemiology. In this course, students will learn about the principles in the field of epidemiology. Topics will include the study of diseases that affect humans, as well as other animals. Students will study how to identify and track the spread of diseases across populations and learn about the types of preventative measures that can be taken to minimize human impact. In addition, this class may also focus on other issues in public health.


Biological mathematics programs may also include a course in the field of genetics. This course will focus on providing students with a fundamental understanding of genetics, with a focus on the genetic system, genetic structure, and organization. In addition, students will learn about how genetic material is distributed. The topic of genomics may also be discussed in this course depending on the specific focus.

Differential Equation Modeling

Mathematical biology programs also often require that students complete a course that focuses on differential equations, which may be structured to specifically focus on differential equations as can be used in biological models. Topics that may be covered in this course include phase plane analysis, reversible systems, perturbation theory, and limit cycles. In addition, students may learn about existence and uniqueness and how to use differential equations in biology.

Stochastic Modeling/Processes

A course that focuses on stochastic modeling and processes may also be commonly offered in a master's program in biological mathematics. Students will learn about the basic theory of stochastic processes, as well as conditional probability and expectation. Other topics that may be discussed include the Martingale theory and Markov theory.

Admission Standards for Master's Degrees in Mathematical Biology

In general, master's programs in mathematical biology are designed for students who have either completed a bachelor's degree in mathematics or biology and who have also displayed an interest in the other field as demonstrated through prior coursework or other relevant academic experience. However, this requirement may vary by program as some institutions may also consider applicants who have demonstrated proficiency in other scientific fields. Typically, in order to submit a completed application file, students will need to send letters of recommendation, transcripts of undergraduate work, a completed application form, a personal statement, and results from the GRE examination.

In summary, there are several programs across the country that either offer specific master's degrees in mathematical biology or a specialization in this field under a broader mathematics degree program. Application requirements may vary depending on the institution, but prospective students may expect to study some common courses such as stochastic modeling and genetics.

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