Benedictine gets $200,000 grant to improve bio-calculus curriculum
January 25, 2007
Phil Brozynski, Media Relations Manager
Biocalculus introduces the fundamental ideas of calculus from the perspective of a biologist. A $199,952 grant will help educators at Benedictine University and College of DuPage (COD) introduce biocalculus to a wider audience of two- and four-year students.
Timothy D. Comar, Ph.D., mathematics professor at Benedictine University, will be the principal investigator on the three-year project titled “Biocalculus: Text Development, Dialog and Assessment” funded by the funded by the Course Curriculum and Laboratory Improvement (CCLI) program of the National Science Foundation (NSF) and conducted in collaboration with COD.
“We want to expose more students to the very important and very hot research field of biomathematics,” Comar said. “With all the DNA data that the Human Genome Project has generated, many biology questions have become increasingly quantitative. Other biological areas are also incorporating more quantitative and computational techniques.
“A recent National Research Council report advocates the need for increasing the mathematical and computational training of undergraduate biology students who intend to pursue graduate work in biology,” Comar added. “This is significant at Benedictine University when you consider the large number of students who major in the biological sciences.”
The project consists of three elements – the development of a new textbook and laboratory manual, the establishment of a quarterly seminar series that will bring researchers in biomathematics to address Benedictine University and COD students, and an assessment component.
The new textbook and computer laboratory manual will be designed for a yearlong Biocalculus course sequence emphasizing biologically-oriented mathematical models from diverse areas in biology including population dynamics, ecology, molecular biology, cellular biology, epidemiology, genetics and genomics.
The seminar series will be directed toward undergraduate students in the mathematical and biological sciences. The seminar will make students aware of the connections between the mathematical and biological sciences in current and future research, and foster interdisciplinary dialogue between mathematics and biology faculty and students at both institutions.
The next speaker scheduled to address the “Benedictine University/College of DuPage Biomathematics Seminar” will be Raina Robeva, Ph.D., associate professor of Mathematical Science at Sweet Briar College (Va.), who will speak at Benedictine University on Thursday, February 22.
The final component of the project is assessment. The project will track students who complete Biocalculus courses at Benedictine and COD, including their performance in subsequent courses in mathematics and the biological sciences, and compare the performance between students in biocalculus and those in traditional calculation courses.
“The NSF review panel which judged the merits of the proposal cited many factors in awarding this grant, including Tim’s extensive background in computational biology and the leadership he has shown during the national discussion of mathematics reform in biology,” said Donald Taylor, Ph.D., Dean of the College of Science at Benedictine University.
Taylor also said that the NSF review panel lauded the active participation of COD in all phases of the project and echoed the need for a biology-centered, reform-style yet rigorous treatment of calculus.
Other faculty members from Benedictine University involved in the project include: Lisa G. Townsley, Ph.D., professor of Mathematics; Jeremy B. Nadolski, Ph.D., assistant professor of Mathematics; Preston R. Aldrich, Ph.D., assistant professor of Biology; Cheryl A. Heinz, Ph.D., assistant professor of Biology; and Alfred R. Martin, Ph.D., professor of Biology.
“The group that put this proposal together demonstrated excellent work and perseverance in their pursuit to find the resources to fund this project,” Taylor said.
The three-year grant period begins June 1.
Benedictine University is an independent Roman Catholic institution located in Lisle, Illinois just 25 miles west of Chicago. Founded in 1887, Benedictine provides 56 undergraduate majors, 16 graduate and four doctorate programs. The Chronicle of Higher Education
recently ranked Benedictine University as the seventh fastest-growing campus among private nonprofit master’s universities, and Forbes
magazine named Benedictine among the top 20 percent of America’s colleges for 2011. Benedictine University’s Master of Business Administration (M.B.A.) program is listed by Crain’s Chicago Business
as the fourth largest in the Chicago area in 2011.