MA 432 Mathematical
Models in Life and Social Sciences Spring, 2015
Course outline, evaluation, etc.
The aim of this course is to provide fundamental skills to build
models that can be applied to areas within biological
(primarily) and social sciences.
Building a mathematical model requires:
a) Formulation of the problem such that only the
important facts (relevant to the scientific or practical purpose
that we seek to express
mathematically) are included; all other details are neglected.
b) Identification of the mathematical tools needed to describe
c) Simplify the problem so that the model can be built and
solved within the time allowed
for the project and using the mathematical tools available to
the problem solvers.
d) Writing the mathematical model and calibrating against data
or known science.
As a group project, you will spend the semester designing a
model for a specific system of your
choosing in consultation with Dr. Shearer.
There will be a mid-term evaluation of progress, which should
include the formulation of the problem
and a first attempt at modeling.
The model can be used to answer scientific questions, comparing
to data for the purpose of gaining
understanding of the underlying processes in the application.
This can be done using mathematical
methods, and software such as Matlab.
The final project report will
include a detailed account of the model and its use of model
The approach of the course is to discuss example
models (from the text books, on reserve at the library)
and to use these examples to build new models. While building
models you will work in groups/teams.
The aim is to formulate a problem, find the needed
mathematical tools to write the model, and to
use the model to address issues or questions, and to investigate
consequences or predictions of the model.
This course should serve both to give you an appreciation of the
use of mathematics in modeling and to provide
a springboard for deeper study of some of the mathematical
Format: The course will use a combination of lectures
taken from the textbooks on reserve at the library and materials
in the the MA 432 course locker.
The first half of the project will be due the week before spring
break and the completed project will be due during the
last week of classes.
Evaluation criteria: The course will be graded based on
the work performed in the group project
(account for 40% of the final grade). The project requires a
mid- and a final report as well
as two presentations (a mid-term and a final presentation). For
the final project each
student will receive a question that has to be answered during
the final presentation. The
final presentation will run during the last week of classes and
during the exam-period. In
addition you will receive homework problems and small group
projects that will account for 60% of the