Bachelor of Arts in Liberal Studies

371 Varner Hall
Varner Hall Room 217
Rochester, MI 48309-4485
(location map)
(248) 370-2154

Dr. Joe Shively
Interim Director, BALS Program
Associate Dean, College of Arts and Sciences


Biology + Mathematics

Biomathematics (also known as mathematical biology and by some of it subfields including computational biology or systems biology) is an interdisciplinary field that uses mathematical techniques and tools to model natural and biological processes. Biomathematics has been used in areas such as cellular neurobiology, epidemic modeling, and population genetics.

Biomathematics was created to assist in developing analytical and predictive models of biological and medical systems. Biomathematics is different from programs in mathematics, biostatistics, bioinformatics, and traditional biology in that students are expected to have a strong background in both biology and applied mathematics. Mathematics and statistics programs typically do not train students to be intimately acquainted with empirical data in terms of measurements and biological meaning or to have deep biological knowledge. Biostatistics and Bioinformatics programs typically focus on statistical and algorithmic analysis of large datasets but not on the construction of mechanistic, predictive models. Traditional biology instill biological knowledge and techniques but teach little if any mathematics. Biomathematics combines all of these areas, building upon the fact that much of the research in the next few decades will require intimate knowledge that combines empirical data and methods, statistics, and theory. Studying interdisciplinary biology and mathematics allows students to avoid spending time gaining additional training through independent learning once they start a new job.

Mathematical modeling methods have become increasingly important in all branches of biology. The rapidly developing techniques of molecular biology and genetics produce a large amount of data, which need efficient algorithms to be handled. Analytical and computational approaches are being utilized as the basis for optimizing the treatment of cancer and infectious diseases, and for analyzing drug efficacy. The wealth of data afforded by new bioinformatics tools and modern molecular biology allow the formulation of precise models, which can then be subject to experimental validation.


The field of mathematical biology is undergoing a resurgence. There is an increase need for skilled computational biologists in scientific research and development. Opportunities about for graduate study, medical school, and research jobs in the pharmaceutical industry and government labs. Sample occupations for a biomathematics degree holder include assistant scientist, data analyst, information scientist, numerical analyst, operations research analyst, physician, psychometrician, researcher, statistician, systems analyst, teacher/professor, and technical writer. Types of employers include biomathematical research groups, biotechnology firms, cancer research centers, centers for disease control and prevention, colleges and universities, computer firms, financial institutions, hospitals/medical centers, large-scale sequencing centers, manufacturing firms, medical biomathematical institutes, national institutes of health, national science foundation, pharmaceutical firms and software development companies.

An Interdisciplinary program in Biomathematics translates well to areas that require the quantitative model based methodologies learned through the field of study. Some appropriate fields for employment include industrial biotechnology, environmental biotechnology, wastewater treatment, software development, management of natural water bodies, pharmaceutical systems, and food process technology.