Mathematical Biology PhD Programs

There are a few programs around the country in which students can pursue a Ph.D. program in mathematical biology. This article will focus on some generalized details about these programs in order to help students determine whether they wish to apply, as well as covering some admission requirements.

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Students who are interested in earning a Ph.D. in Mathematical Biology have a few options in order to accomplish this goal. It is possible to find degree programs specifically in the field of mathematical biology, though they are not widely available. Otherwise, students could choose to enroll in a more general mathematics or biology Ph.D. program that has a specific research area in mathematical biology. We will learn more about these options in greater detail below.

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Information About Ph.D. Programs in Mathematical Biology

Ph.D. programs in mathematical biology can typically be completed in around five years, with coursework dominating the first two years of the program and dissertation research making up the final three years. Students will likely want to make sure that a faculty member of the school is involved in mathematical biology before enrolling, since this is important when students begin their dissertation. Below, we will look at five different courses that may be found in Ph.D. programs that focus on mathematical biology.

Mathematical Modeling of Biological Systems

These programs will typically require that students take a course that is focused on various ways of using mathematical models to explain, display, and understand biological systems. Some topics that may be covered in this course include stochastic models, single-molecule kinetics, and models of polymers. In addition, this course may cover different computer simulation techniques that can be used for modeling purposes.

Partial Differential Equations

It is also common for these programs to require that students take a course that covers partial differential equations. In this course, students may learn about various ways that partial differential equations can be used in biological modeling in the study of different biological phenomena. Topics that may be covered in this course include Laplace equations, Fourier transform methods, approximation techniques, and spectral methods of finding solutions for partial differential equations.

Stochastic Modeling and Methods

Another course commonly found in these programs covers stochastic models and methods. In this course, students will receive an overview of various stochastic methods and will learn about the ways in which they can be applied to the field of biology and solving biological problems. The course will likely cover both continuous and discrete stochastic models. Other topics that may be discussed in this course include boundary conditions, stability, asymptotic analysis of SDE, and Markov chains.

Biomathematics/Mathematical Biology

These doctoral programs also will likely include one or several courses that cover biomathematics and mathematical biology. In such a course, students will learn about topics like game theory, cell physiology modeling, circadian models, and Fourier transforms. In addition, students will learn about how mathematical biology can be used in different fields like immunology and chemotaxis.

Mathematical and Computational Neuroscience

Another course that may appear in a Ph.D. program in mathematical biology is a course that focuses on mathematical and computational neuroscience. In this course, students will cover a broad scope of topics, from as small as a single neuron to as large as an entire neuro-network. Some topics that may be covered in this course include the firing patterns of neurons, neural coding, the Hodgkin-Huxley framework, and cable equations.

Admission Standards for Ph.D. Programs in Mathematical Biology

In order to gain admission into a Ph.D. program in mathematical biology, students are generally expected to have completed a significant number of courses in the fields of mathematics and biology, though this requirement may differ depending on the specific scope of the program. However, if students plan to conduct their Ph.D. research in the mathematical biology field specifically, then they will likely need to show their background in these fields. When applying for a Ph.D. program, students will need to submit a complete application file. This is typically composed of letters of recommendation, all past undergraduate transcripts, GRE score results, a personal statement and a resume. It is wise for students to check with each program they are interested in before applying in order to see if they fulfill the program requirements.

In summary, students can enroll in Ph.D. programs in the field of mathematical biology, though they may have to enroll in a more generalized program that highlights mathematical biology as a research area. Either way, these programs allow students to take courses in this field and conduct research in mathematical biology towards the completion of a doctoral dissertation.

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