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BIOL/MATH 2350. Mathematical Modeling in Ecology
(Combined Section: HONR-SC 2303-001)
Fall, 2013
TuTh 12:30PM - 1:50PM
Business Building - COBA, Room 139

    M Tu 3:00 PM - 5:00 PM; F 10:00 AM - 11:00 AM (Dr. Grover)
    Tu Th 11:00 AM - 12:00 PM (Dr. Kojouharov)
    or by appointment
    An introductory course in mathematical modeling techniques in biology with emphasis on construction and interpretation of models in ecology and epidemiology. Computational tools will allow students to work with mathematical models chosen from areas such as optimization, statistics, and difference and differential equations. The goals of this course will include teaching programming skills and illustrating how biological knowledge is used to construct simulation rules in this computational approach.
    Students will become competent in constructing mathematical models representing problems in ecology and epidemiology, by formulating questions, describing biological phenomena verbally and mathematically, and analyzing the equations that result. Students will become familiar with some of the classical mathematical models in ecology and epidemiology. Students will analyze and derive predictions from simple mathematical models formulated as difference and differential equations, using mathematical and computational tools
    BIOL 1441 and MATH 1426, or permission of the instructors.
    Students will need access to a computer with the program MATLAB installed. The Mathematics Department provides a computing facility for this purpose and others may be available on campus.
    UT Arlington computing facilities with MATLAB access: Students will need access to a computer with an Internet connection and web browser to obtain various course materials.
    We will try to cover these topics during the semester. However, we will be flexible and will emphasize the topics covered in the first four chapters of the textbook, doing the remainder as time allows.
    • Introduction to mathematical modeling in biology: Chapter 1 [PDF]
    • How to construct a model: Chapter 2
    • Deriving classical models: Chapter 3
    • The mathematics of functions and approximations: Primer 1
    • Numerical and graphical analysis of models: Chapter 4
    • Equilibria and stability: Chapter 5
    Grades are based on weekly homework problems, and on course projects. There are no exams. There is no extra credit.
    • Homework Problems (50%): Homework assignments will usually be assigned weekly on Thursdays, and written reports will be due the following Thursday. Homework will be an important part of the learning experience in this course, providing a basis for discussions in class. Therefore, all assignments should be completed and brought to class on the due date. Some assignments will be completed by pairs of students identified by the instructors. Communication is encouraged, but each student or pair of students should complete their own written report to bring to class when the assignment is due.
    • Projects (50%): Each student will also complete a course project. The project will be assigned at the end of the second lecture topic in the course outline. It will involve examining and analyzing a biological situation, identifying variables that form the basis of a mathematical model of the biological situation, and explaining relationships among the variables. Students will also be expected to explore some of the consequences and predictions of their model, and discuss modifications to improve it. Students will work in small groups and prepare a written report and an oral presentation. The report and presentation should summarize the model, the steps taken to analyze it, the conclusions reached, and the possible improvements to the model. A good project report will have an introduction stating the research questions, a description of the model that is used to address these questions, a presentation of analyses, a statement of the findings and conclusions of the analyses, and a description of modifications to improve the model. Project topics will be chosen in consultation with the course instructors by October 15, 2013. A rough draft / progress report on the course project will be due November 12, 2013. Guidance for this report will be given in class. Feedback on project progress will be given in class on November 19, 2013. The oral presentations of the course project will take place during the last week of classes (November 26 and December 3, 2013). The written report of the course project will be due on December 3, 2013. The project report will be graded for technical correctness and the clarity and accuracy of its written explanation of how the model relates to the biology. The grade on the project will constitute 50% of the course grade.
    Written reports for homework assignments should be brought to class on the date assigned. The assignment should be completed to the greatest extent possible. For this class, students are allowed to bring a partially completed problem to class to discuss with instructors and other students. Homework assignments will be scored according to three criteria: (1) the thoroughness and correctness of mathematical analysis; (2) the thoroughness, clarity, and accuracy of verbal descriptions of mathematical analysis and biological context; (3) the extent to which the written report brought to class prepares the student for discussions that take place during class.
    Attendance is required. Attendance will be taken in each class. In order to encourage students to attend, students having up to one unexcused absence will have five additional points added to their final raw score for the course grade. Beyond one unexcused absence, this 5-point attendance bonus will be reduced by 2 points for each further unexcused absence from lecture.
Expectations for Out-of-Class Study:
    Beyond the time required to attend each class meeting, students enrolled in this course should expect to spend at least an additional 9 hours per week of their own time in course-related activities, including reading required materials, completing assignments, working on projects, etc.
Grade disputes:
    The instructors are willing to review the scoring of homework assignments and projects, but requests to do so must be made within two weeks of the date that graded work is distributed in class. Any appeal of a grade in this course must follow the procedures and deadlines for grade-related grievances as published in the current undergraduate catalog; see
Drop policy:
    Withdrawal from the course must follow all pertinent University and Departmental regulations and deadline dates. Students who are supported by scholarships from the UTTER Program are expected to make satisfactory progress in this class to maintain their scholarship support. Any student experiencing difficulties leading them to consider dropping the course should talk to the instructors to obtain their advice and help in avoiding any negative consequences. The last date to drop a class and receive a grade of W is October 30, 2013.
    • Students will not be automatically dropped for non-attendance. Repayment of certain types of financial aid administered through the University may be required as the result of dropping classes or withdrawing. Contact the Financial Aid Office for more information.
Incomplete grades:
    A grade of incomplete will only be assigned for students who are physically unable to complete the course due to serious illness or injury.
Other issues:
    Class participation is an important aspect of this course, so be considerate of other students and arrive on time. Turn off cell phones and pagers.