MOL 410/510 – Fall 2012 – Introduction to Biological Dynamics

MOL 410/510 Home | Syllabus | Reading material | Homework & solutions | Notes for Presentations

Thomas Gregor, Jadwin 120, (609) 258-4335; Email: tg2[at]princeton[dt]edu; Office hrs: Email to make an appointment.
Ned Wingreen, LTL 347, (609) 258-8476; Email: wingreen[at]princeton[dt]edu; Office hrs: Email to make an appointment.

Teaching Assistant:
David Borenstein, LTL345A, (609) 258-9407 Email: dbborens[at]princeton[dt]edu.


This is a course for students in the biological sciences. The focus is on learning mathematical methods and their applications to biological problems. The course is intended for students who may not have previously pursued further study in mathematics, to give them a basic grounding in mathematical modeling. Topics include differential equations, linear algebra, difference equations, and probability. Each topic will have a lecture component and computer laboratory component. The course will also require a project presentation about a biological application of interest to the student.

Computing: Students will work extensively with the computing package Matlab. No previous computing experience is necessary. Students who have not used Matlab before should go through the short tutorial Getting started with MATLAB on the course website.

Homework: Eight homework assignments will be given during the course. You may work together on homeworks, but in small groups of at most three. Writing up of the homeworks must be individual, acknowledging, where appropriate, people with whom you discussed the homework. You may get an extension on a homework, with good enough reasons, by writing to one of the instructors before the homework due dates. Other late homeworks may have a small 10% penalty per day late. Please drop your homeworks off in Ned Wingreen’s mailbox on the first floor of LTL.

Grades: Homework will be cumulatively worth 200 points; the lowest score will be dropped (with the exception of Homework #1, which cannot be dropped). There will be a mid-term worth 100 points. There will be a final project in which each student will chose a topic of interest (in consultation with the instructors and TA), and perform some original analysis using the mathematics learned in the course. Each undergraduate student will prepare a 10-15 minute presentation for the class worth 100 points (ok to work in pairs, with double presentation time). Each graduate student will submit a paper worth 100 points based on the project. A comprehensive final will be given at the end of the course worth 200 points.

Evaluation method points % of grade
Mid-term exam 100 17
Project Presentation (undergrads) or Project Paper (grads) 100 17
Homework 200 33
Final exam 200 33
Total 600 100

Important dates

Mid-term: 10/25 (during regular class hours)

Declare elective topic: 11/13

Practice Presentations (undergrads): 12/12 (during computer lab)

Presentations (undergrads): 12/14

Project papers due (grads): 1/15

Final Exam: To be determined

Some possible projects: Choose any topic not covered in class.

Neuroscience: How does a nerve work?

Neural networks: How do we make decisions?

Knots & DNA: Does nature really cut-and-paste?

Evolution: How long does it take for a mouse to evolve into an elephant?

Genetic algorithms: Is nature a good computer?