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Math requirements?

Discussion in 'Physician Scientists' started by USCstarlett, Apr 24, 2007.

  1. USCstarlett

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    Hey guys,
    Sorry for asking if this is a dumb question, but I was wondering if anyone knew off the top of their head, what is the typical math requirement for MSTP? Anything special/different from MD? I've only had Calc 1 and AP stat (5) in high school (I'm a B.S. in Bio major, so I know my sciences are fine). One of my friends said you need either a year of college math, or possibly even Calc 2. I strongly dislike math classes, and would like to avoid them if possible (I'm lysdexic with numbers, it makes taking math classes really really difficult for me becaus I transpose numbers, tho Stat wasn't bad). I'm starting to wonder if I have to re-register for next semester and take not as fun classes.... Anyways, any feedback on the various program requirements would be nice. Thanks. :)
     
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  3. jeniffer lopez

    jeniffer lopez La butifarra
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    I have your same problem...math dyslexia! I have always been very good at setting up problems but doing the actual calculations is a pain because my numbers are transposable elements. I ended up taking one semester of calc and one of grad level statistics, and I was fine with every school except for Harvard's HST. They will interview you even if you don't have the math, but you need to take the class if you decide to enroll. If you are not interested in that program, take stats instead. I did because it was more useful in research.
     
  4. vector07

    vector07 Junior Member
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    Harvard HST and washU are the only two schools I know that require any math over calc II. WashU's medical school actually requires up through differential equations.

    That said, I know Jeniffer Lopez (above) interviewed (and I believe was accepted at) washU's MSTP without this level of math.. so who knows?

    I had a similar experience with Colorado's MSTP--they require 9 semester credits of english. Still got an interview offer though, despite only 5 credits! I didnt end up going to the interview, so maybe they would have made matriculation contingent on my taking another english course like jeniffer mentioned for Harvard's math.
     
  5. USCstarlett

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    Thank you both so much. I've decided to take Stat next semester, and enroll in calc 2 second semester only if Harvard or Duke deign to give me an interview or some such event :) It won't be so bad, besides I guess I could use a refresher on p-values.
     
  6. Mr. Tee

    Mr. Tee Indentured servant
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    I took 2 semesters of calc I and got into WashU. I did take a statistics course (introductory, hehe) though, which could replace one semester of calc for their math requirement. So ditch the differential equations, and take statistics. Unless you like differential equations, that is.
     
  7. solitude

    solitude Senior Member
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    So given Mr. Tee's and jenniferlopez's success at WashU, how stringent is this math requirement? The only mention of it that I found on the WashU website was the following: "Required course work includes a minimum of one year in biological science, general or inorganic chemistry, organic chemistry, physics and mathematics through calculus, including integral equations and differential equations."

    I interpret that to mean that one's calculus courses must have included units on integration and on differential equation, which is standard fare for any legit calc course. It would be a pretty onerous requirement if matriculants needed to have taken an entire course on differential equations (I did it many moons ago, and it was the worst math course I took).
     
  8. vector07

    vector07 Junior Member
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    there is a difference between differentiation--standard in any calc course--and differential equations, which is a semester or two beyond basic calculus. Of course, it might be the math major in me that distinguishes between these things.. :cool:
     
  9. solitude

    solitude Senior Member
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    obviously. But at least in my Calc II class, we had an entire chapter or two on differential equations. For example, we did population dynamics with K, r, etc. and we did general first and second degree diffeqs. I thought this was pretty standard for a Calc II class?
     
  10. Mr. Tee

    Mr. Tee Indentured servant
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    I did diff. eqs. in my Calc I class...

    But yeah that stuff is pretty standard in Calc II.
     
  11. jeniffer lopez

    jeniffer lopez La butifarra
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    I really don't know. They never brought it up, and I did not even know that WashU required it until now. Maybe they did not give me a harder time because I withdrew my application soon after I was offered an acceptance, and I did not go through the details of what was required of me to start school there in the Fall. Because Harvard's acceptance came much later (and I guess they assume everybody will take the spot) they give much more detailed information on course requirements when the acceptance package comes.

    Personally though, I must say I wish I had taken the full calculus series, adding a full course in differential equations. I might have to pick it up on my own as my research interests have changed since college and require more math training. Pretty much anything I want to learn nowadays requires knowledge of diff equations. If you think your research in the future might require it, by all means take it while in college.
     
  12. TeChNiQuE5

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    anyone ever take Calculus over the summer, Calc 1 that is? I can't decide if it will be too difficult :(
     
  13. solitude

    solitude Senior Member
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    Cool, thanks for the replies Mr. Tee and j. lopez. I think I'm safe given that I took diffeq a while ago, but it's good to know nonetheless.

    Also, congrats on the acceptances!
     
  14. vector07

    vector07 Junior Member
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    I never took calculus I & II in college, so my experience is purely from AP calc. We "did" difEQs like dx/dt = k, or kx. But again, I would call that essentially a derivative, not a differential equation :p We never did population ODEs in AP calc.

    Techniques: calc I in particular is not that difficult--in fact, I thought it was refreshing and more useful/logical course than any math class before it. Calc II, however, can be fairly difficult when you get into sequences and series.
     
  15. hawkeey

    hawkeey Member
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    My general recommendation to students though is take as much math as you can handle in college. It limits you later on and you don't have as much time or opportunity to learn it.
     
  16. mtlove

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    I have talked to a lot of profs about this topic and even a clinician (he was a MD/PhD), and pretty much everyone regretted not taking more math in college. Even people who had taken through Differential Equations (refering to a Diff Eq class beyond the traditional year of Calc) had stressed this. People who hated math in college were amongst those encouraging me to take as many math classes as possibly. I actually had many more biologists tell me to take a calculus class over biochemistry my senior year (the class conflicted). You would be suprised by how often things reappear in certain areas of your research (including biology areas) from Multivariate Calculus and Differential equations for example.

    One of my bio profs even was taking the entire calc series at my school from start to finish. He took a year in college, but he had grown sick of asking all of the faculty in the physics and math departments to explain the advanced calculus and still not really understanding it. His taking the class was a little strange for the bio prof, math profs and students (including lots of bio majors for the first few classes).

    Math has always been very easy to me (easy A in these classes even amongst math and physics majors), so I am probably not the best to give this advise but you are probably better off taking as much math as you can handle. If you are worried about grades or money, try auditing the classes. From my discussions with those who have traveled this route before us, you will probably regret not doing so in the end.
     
  17. MSTPbound

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    I agree wholeheartedly with this. Granted, I'm biased given my interests, but if you believe that physics is the basis for all sciences, and that mathematics is the language of physics, then it is probably wise to make a strong mathematical foundation a priority in preparing for a long scientific career. I remember being influenced by James Watson's words regarding his concern that Linus Pauling wouldn't have been interested in wasting time with a "mathematically deficient scientist"... wise words to learn from I think. I don't know where the OP's research goals may lie, but I have used the recommended coursework page from Harvard's biophysics web site as one of my resources for undergraduate preparation - the mathematical emphasis is clear:

    http://arep.med.harvard.edu/biophysics/

    Good luck!
     
  18. vincikai

    vincikai Senior Member
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    Wow how are you guys going make it as MD/PHD, if you are afraid to take basic level math? Suck it up, build a strong mathematical foundation while you still can.
     
  19. MSTPbound

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    I haven't taken calculus over the summer, but I did take both of my organic chemistry courses over the summer.

    It was pretty unnatural... I learned a heck of a lot because it was total immersion (which probably makes sense when you're trying to learn a new language, like orgo or mathematics), and took me about 2-4 hours of studying daily during the week and about 20-30 hours of studying each weekend to ace those classes. My guess is it'd be safe to be prepared for this kind of work for a summer math course - but then calc I isn't as abstract as orgo so you might not find that you need so much work.

    Probably not "too difficult"... just very work intensive, and extensive.

    This summer, I'm taking Calc III, linear algebra, and doing a private tutorial in differential equations with a physicist form Columbia (it helps to have been a personal fitness trainer... gives you a skill set to offer as bartering fare:) ). So I'm in a similar boat... just buckle down, and prepare for your summer to be "sacrificed" in the name of education and more tools to think with.

    Good luck!

    -MSTPbound
     
  20. Jorje286

    Jorje286 Member
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    Thanks for the info everyone!

    do you guys think it's worth taking partial differential equations over probability and stats II? I know it will depend a lot on your research field, but are there any general suggestions about that? I'm into neuroscience btw. Is anything beyond calc 2 considered advanced calc? We don't have a course titled advanced calc or mulitvariable calc in my uni but we do have calc 3. Thanks in advance.
     
  21. CampusHippo

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    This is an excellent point. I think it's also worth mentioning that "differential equations" is a big field in itself, and courses that claim to cover it will vary in their breadth and depth, just like your freshman bio class will cover "cell biology" but not exhaust it. I don't have any particular knowledge of different program requirements, but my guess is that you just need a passing familiarity. Math classes focused on Diff Eq tend to be oriented towards techniques for generating solutions, an exercise that is rarely (but, of course, sometimes...) relevant in biology once you understand what the terms mean, and can use them as a brief, specific language for describing systems that change.

    I think the poster that commented on math as the language of physics as the foundation of science might have overstated that case a bit. (The standard model hasn't really helped explain stem cells...) But if you want to be a scientist it does seem awfully limiting to shy away from the basic tools for expressing the results of your investigation with numbers. Math is hard, but it's really powerful...

    -CHO
     
  22. meowkat444

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    [/QUOTE]
    I think the poster that commented on math as the language of physics as the foundation of science might have overstated that case a bit. (The standard model hasn't really helped explain stem cells...) But if you want to be a scientist it does seem awfully limiting to shy away from the basic tools for expressing the results of your investigation with numbers. Math is hard, but it's really powerful...

    -CHO[/QUOTE]

    but i thought we were the forum who wanted to understand :p

    sorry, i'm a chemistry teacher right now and sometimes the kids think i'm crazy when i wax poetic about how we are all made of math. aw, who am i kidding, they think i'm crazy all the time.

    but in no way do you have to take diff eq for med school. as a fellow neuro person, i would definitely suggest taking stats. i took stats and multivar and i'm pretty happy with that... honestly, sometimes i feel like linear algebra couldn't hurt, might take it before matriculation. but it depends on what kind of neuro... if you're into systems or computational, the math will be more relevant. you'll probably have to take stats again in grad school though.
     
  23. orrghead16

    orrghead16 decimals and dollars
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    Calc III is multi-variable. It is a lot easier that Calc II, mostly just applications and going into 3D. You learn all about vectors and such which will help with Physics comprehension.

    Second the Linear Algebra comment. Finishing that class now and it does have a ton applications. Makes some of the algebra applications that used to take a long haul very simple. Matrices are a powerful tool. It can be a tough class though. Check to see if the profs are proof heavy or lean more towards applications. My prof practically based the course on proofs, so I would have been sweating in my boots if I wasn't a math major.

    yes. :thumbup: I like the way you think.
     
  24. MSTPbound

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    That's funny... last time I checked, every single biological function was intrinsically tied to some fundamental biological structure. Kind of hard to get down to the nitty gritty of structure without physics.

    Tough to get into the essence of chemistry without physics also.

    Kind of hard to deal with physics without math.

    I think my case was adequately and appropriately stated, albeit an attempt at a poetic perspective... hopefully I'll be better at science than I am at poetry.:rolleyes:
     
  25. Meatwad

    Meatwad Reformed
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    Glad to see someone else is taking a real heavy load of advanced math in the summer; the private tutorial sounds awesome! Excellent choice to take Llinear algebra and vector calc at the same time. I'm taking a class on graph theory, a class on data analysis, and a class called "Applied Algebra" (homomorphisms, informal set theory, CRT, Burnside's thm, etc) this summer.

    Anyone ever take a proof-heavy course in the summer? I've looked at past course websites for the algebra class, and unfortunately it's light on the "applied," heavy on the proof :laugh:
     
  26. CampusHippo

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    Hey. Sorry, I didn't mean to bust on you there. I have a lot of sympathy for these ideas, and mostly agree with them. My point was simply that for lots of issues in biology (with biophysics and structural biology being a major and important exception, of course) the fact that physics is the utimate ontological basis for an effect doesn't always make it a meaningful, concise, and powerful explanatory basis (or experimental toolkit) for examining it. And just because a physical law is necessary for a process to happen doesn't mean that it's necessary or sufficient for understanding the process.

    For example, you don't study problems in genetics (usually...) with atomic scale models of your genomes. You use ... um ... genetics, because the particular details of how the physics events happen are (usually...) irrelevant. This is a pretty common sense idea, so I think we may be in heated agreement about math and physics being awesome. But I liked your poetry. It ... um ... touched my heart.

    -CHO
     
  27. MSTPbound

    MSTPbound student
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    No hard feelings. :)

    Hey, my only point, with which you have agreed above (although I don't know if I would go so far as to invoke ontology... we're talking physics here, not metaphysics;) - but I'll play along), is that physics comprises a "first principle" in science, and mathematics provides us with the most useful tools for its description and analysis. As for the rest of your perspective, I made no suggestion to the contrary, and happen to agree with you. To state that "physics is the basis of all sciences" is not the same as claiming that physics is the ONLY science, or even the most important one - I made no such value judgement to the tune of this latter extreme, and have actually vehemently opposed this position in past arguments with rather arrogant "fundamentalist" physicists.

    I chose atomic physics as an example of physics as a cornerstone of scientific inquiry, however in no way did I intend to limit "physics" to this narrow definition. I am certain that, besides providing the "ultimate ontological basis" for genetics, per se, the whole of physics has much to offer the field even insofar as genomic questions are concerned.

    "Genetics" is obviously an interdisciplinary field of study that requires more than traditional physical approaches for its entire study and description. Nevertheless, for the record, (and I suppose herein lies the exception you might have assumed with "usually..."), genetics starts with DNA and Francis Crick, Maurice Wilkins, and Rosalind Franklin were all physicists. :cool:

    CLEARLY.

    Yeah...thanks. I...er..really appreciate the sentiment. Would you mind describing in biological terms how it touched your heart? :smuggrin:
     
  28. SirTony76

    SirTony76 Senior Member
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    When WashU says they require differential equations I don't think they mean the class. I think they are saying that they mean they require you to take a course where you learn to take derivatives and integrals.
     

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