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Help budding biologists develop their maths skills

21 September 2012

New project to wed maths and bioscience in the classroom

"You can't have one without the other," Frank Sinatra famously sang about love and marriage. This sentiment is being increasingly voiced by the academic community with regard to the less romantic union of maths and science. To highlight the integral nature of maths to biology the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) is calling on its research community to submit examples of mathematics in their research which can then be developed into engaging classroom resources.

The new project aims to inspire young people to continue studying maths and make them aware of the need for mathematical skills in modern bioscience research in all areas, from bioinformatics and systems biology to medicine and biotechnology.

Dr Tristan Maclean, BBSRC's Inspiring Young Scientists Co-ordinator, explains: "Concern is growing amongst teachers, universities and employers about the maths proficiency of young people and their awareness of the importance of maths to modern biology, leaving them ill equipped for undergraduate bioscience courses and beyond. We want to work with researchers to develop fun, engaging examples of the actual maths in use at the cutting edge of bioscience, so that budding young scientists are aware from an early stage of how interlinked the two subjects are and to embrace this, not be daunted by it."

Researchers are being asked to provide information about their research topics and the mathematical principles involved. Paired maths and biology teachers will work alongside a science communicator to develop innovative resources featuring explanations of the role of maths in scientific discovery as well as engaging activities and exercises to enable pupils to develop their mathematical proficiency.

Professor Douglas Kell, BBSRC's Chief Executive, said: "Modern biology is a quantitative science, involving large amounts of data. BBSRC is committed to ensuring UK bioscience has a broad and robust base to maintain its world-leading position. As part of this commitment we need to ensure that our next generation of scientists are equipped with the fundamental skills they need to become world-leading researchers in an evolving landscape where maths and bioscience are becoming increasingly entwined."

For more information about the project or to submit a proposal, please contact Tristan Maclean: tristan.maclean@bbsrc.ac.uk.

ENDS

About BBSRC

BBSRC invests in world-class bioscience research and training on behalf of the UK public. Our aim is to further scientific knowledge, to promote economic growth, wealth and job creation and to improve quality of life in the UK and beyond.

Funded by Government, and with an annual budget of around £445M (2011-2012), we support research and training in universities and strategically funded institutes. BBSRC research and the people we fund are helping society to meet major challenges, including food security, green energy and healthier, longer lives. Our investments underpin important UK economic sectors, such as farming, food, industrial biotechnology and pharmaceuticals.

For more information about BBSRC, our science and our impact see: www.bbsrc.ac.uk.
For more information about BBSRC strategically funded institutes see: www.bbsrc.ac.uk/institutes.