These are exciting times in mathematics. Never before has mathematics played such a fundamental role in so many different disciplines. There is a growing sense, however, that the life sciences are especially well situated to form the next major partnership with mathematics. Fully realizing this promise, though, will require a new generation of scientists and citizens who are comfortable integrating ideas from both mathematics and biology. Our hope is that this book is a step in that direction. Below we each offer a few personal comments about how this project came to be.
JS: I was teaching the course Calculus for the Life Sciences at the University of Toronto and was thinking about writing a book that would be suitable for the course. But I needed assistance from the mathematical biology community. I wrote letters to nearby mathematical biologists and organized a meeting of like-minded instructors at the Fields Institute in the fall of 2010. We had wide-ranging discussions about a suitable curriculum for such a course, and I secretly hoped I would find a coauthor among the participants. It was there that I met Troy and we decided to join forces.
With the help of our editors at Cengage Learning, we wrote to a large portion of the community of mathematical biologists and instructors who teach a calculus course for life science students. We sought additional contributors and reviewers for the book as well as advice on the curriculum. The response was enthusiastic, and what you now see is the result of the combined ideas of these many people.
TD: In 2007 I developed a new calculus course at Queen's University for students in biochemistry, biology, and the life sciences. It began as a small pilot experiment but rapidly grew into a multi-instructor course. Unexpectedly, though, as the course grew it gained a reputation for being more difficult than our other calculus offerings. Student grades were not, in fact, different, but students nevertheless felt that the course was more difficult.
I came to believe that part of this misperception lay in the organizational structure of the material and in the nature of the examples. My students felt that their peers were taking what seemed like a clean and straightforward calculus course whereas their course was cluttered with the messiness of biology.
This experience led me to begin developing new pedagogical material. I wanted my students to see the significance of mathematics in biology, but I also wanted them to appreciate the beauty and power of mathematics in a way that inspired them. I felt that this would best be accomplished within a course whose organizational structure revolved around mathematical ideas similar to those presented in our traditional calculus offerings. But it would be important to have the exposition of the material and the examples involve genuine and compelling biological applications. I had in mind a course that would connect mathematics to biology in a way that has historically been considered the purview of the physical sciences.
Fortunately, at this point in my thinking I met a like-minded person in Jim. Through a number of discussions I realized that expanding my efforts to produce a resource that could be used by others would be a worthwhile goal.
Now that the book is nearing completion, we want to thank the many people in the community who have encouraged us and helped us to bring the book to fruition. We hope that it will meet the needs of the instructors and students in the first year course in calculus for the life sciences. And as always, we look forward to your feedback.