EUReka Course: Math 216, Calculus for Biological Sciences
See Dr. Bani-Yaghoub's Syllabus.
How was teaching your EUReka class different from other similar classes you've taught?
Teaching Math 216- EUReka was different in three important respects: research discussions, interdisciplinary modeling projects, and the use of technology to solve and interpret the models. We had weekly class discussions related to application of mathematics to solve real-world problems. The students started the semester with a small class project to learn the technology, gain confidence, and familiarize themselves with research problems in the field of mathematical biology. The use of technology allowed the freshman students to bypass the complicated research methods and focus on the end results. In particular, the students quickly learned how to use the Matlab computational software and numerically solve the mathematical and statistical models. Then we spent 2-3 weeks to validate the models and correctly translate the mathematical outcomes into the real-world situations. After completing the first project, the students worked on a bigger project, where they could work more independently, use their research experience gained form the first project and apply the mathematics that was taught during lecture hours. Including undergraduate research projects seems to be a practical way of engaging students with the course contents and exposing them to undergraduate research.
How did teaching a EUReka class allow you to more tightly intertwine your research interest and your teaching responsibilities?
I am an applied mathematician and Math 216 is all about applying mathematics in the biological sciences. The climate change and global warming is directly related to my current research area. Therefore, in the second project I asked the students to investigate the possible links between CO2 emission rates and the global warming. The students used the past 50 years CO2 and temperature data to build and validate mathematical models. Each group of students presented their research in the class and I personally was amazed by their abilities to interpret the mathematical results and the wide spectrum of literature reviews presented in their works.
What do you think your EUReka students benefited from being exposed to undergraduate research early in their academic careers?
This has been a high impact educational practice. By the end of the semester, the students had a much better appreciation for mathematics and they realized that mathematics can actually be used to solve and analyze real world problems. Also, the students realized that they don’t need to have a PhD to do research. In fact, three students joined the Interdisciplinary Applied Mathematics Program offered by the UMKC Applied Mathematics Group. In this program, the students will gain further experiences of employing mathematical techniques to solve real-world problems. This is a clear example of making students engaged with undergraduate research early in their academic careers.
What advice would you have for colleagues thinking of offering a EUReka course
Let them start with a very small research project. This helps them gain confidence and helps you cover the course materials necessary for their second research project. This was my first experience of incorporating the undergraduate research at a lower-level math course. I noticed that the motivation of freshmen students can exceed that of junior and senior students. Yet, the greatest challenge was to make them believe that they can do research even at the early semesters. So, there seems to be a trade-off between the motivation and the confidence.