Alternative Calculus Slot Will Cater to Pre-Health and Biology Students

By: Yardena Katz  |  May 9, 2017
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Stern College has introduced a new section for Calculus I geared towards students pursuing biological and pre-health studies. The fall semester class will be focused on applications relevant to the biomedical and life sciences and is intended to “better fit student interests” and “better equip students with specific skills that will help them in their future academic and career paths,” according to Dr. Marian Gidea, Chair of Mathematics at Stern.

For the past three consecutive semesters, Calculus I has been taught to one larger class capped at 30 students. Next semester’s two smaller classes are each capped at 20 students, though both classes fill the same Calculus I requirement and look identical on transcripts as MATH 1412. The targeted course is akin to Stern’s specialized Intro to Statistics slot tailored to Psychology majors.

The four-credit Calculus I course is compulsory for seven Stern College majors: Biochemistry, Chemistry, Economics, Mathematics, Physical Sciences, Physics and Pre-Engineering. Calculus I also fills the selective math requirements for Biology and Computer Science. As of fall 2016, 31% of Stern students are registered under one of these majors; 25% of Stern students are registered as Biology majors.

The new class will be taught by Adjunct Professor Dr. Maxwell Musser, while the traditional Calculus I class will be taught by University Professor of Mathematics Dr. Morton Lowengrub. Musser has been teaching at Yeshiva College since the Spring 2016 semester, and previously taught for six years at the City College of New York. His teaching experience encompasses basic math courses like Precalculus, Algebra and Trigonometry, along with more advanced courses like Calculus I and II, Linear Algebra and Advanced Euclidean Geometry.

Musser was chosen to teach the course because of his prior experience in teaching Calculus material specifically for Biology majors. He will continue to teach at YC as he commences his first semester at Stern.

While the main body of knowledge of Calculus is the same regardless of major, Calculus is used differently in the biomedical world than it is in physics and engineering,” noted Gidea. “For instance, mathematical modeling of blood flowing in a blood vessel is quite different from modeling vibrations in an engine. Good examples that fit students’ interests improve the understanding of the subject matter, and motivate students in their study.

“We believe that this will be a great addition to our course offerings, and we plan to continue this in the future, paying, of course, close attention to students’ feedback.”

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