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07-25-2016

Clarkson University Faculty Participate in Teaching Workshop to Make Quantitative Biology More Accessible

Students can often underestimate the amount of math involved in studying biology, so Clarkson University professors are collaborating with other faculty to better prepare them to solve quantitative problems.

Andrew David and Stefanie KringAssistant Professor of Biology Andrew David and Assistant Professor / Laboratory Coordinator Stefanie Kring participated in the "Lowering the Activation Energy: Making Quantitative Biology More Accessible" workshop, this summer. The goal of the workshop was for faculty to develop strategies to integrate more math into undergraduate biology.

"The workshop offered an excellent opportunity to collaborate with other biology faculty from across the country who are faced with similar situations and challenges in their labs and classrooms," Kring said.

Hosted by the 2016 National Academies Special Topics Summer Institute on Quantitative Biology, the workshop was sponsored by Quantitative Undergraduate Biology Education and Synthesis (QUBES). Modeled on the National Academies Summer Institute, the Quantitative Biology Summer Institute is presented by BioQUEST, Science Case Net and QUBES.

David said while the freshman biology curriculum would not drastically change, the workshop participants recommend that more problem solving should be added to lessons. Instead of lecturing on biology for an hour and a half, faculty would spend the second half of class incorporating mathematical problems and giving students work sets.

"The idea behind the workshop was to develop active learning strategies to make math relevant for biology students," David said. "A lot of biological principles are based in mathematical modeling, so you really can't do much without quantitative skills."

Now that more information is available on the internet, David said, biology students can dedicate more time to learning to solve real-world problems instead of memorizing information.

"We've sort of moved beyond the traditional lecture because everything is online," he said. "Now that students have the information already, we can promote problem solving as a large part of the course."

Clarkson University educates the leaders of the global economy. One in five alumni already leads as an owner, CEO, VP or equivalent senior executive of a company. With its main campus located in Potsdam, N.Y., and additional graduate program and research facilities in the Capital Region and Beacon, New York, Clarkson is a nationally recognized research university with signature areas of academic excellence and research directed toward the world's pressing issues. Through more than 50 rigorous programs of study in engineering, business, arts, education, sciences and the health professions, the entire learning-living community spans boundaries across disciplines, nations and cultures to build powers of observation, challenge the status quo, and connect discovery and innovation with enterprise.

Photo caption: Clarkson University Assistant Professor of Biology Andrew David, left, and Assistant Professor / Laboratory Coordinator Stefanie Kring participated in the "Lowering the Activation Energy: Making Quantitative Biology More Accessible" workshop with the goal to develop strategies to integrate more math into undergraduate biology.

[Photograph for media use is available at http://www.clarkson.edu/news/photos/qubes-bio.jpg ]

[News directors and editors: For more information, contact Annie Harrison, Director of Media Relations, at 315-268-6764 or aharrison@clarkson.edu.]

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