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FEMS Microbiol Lett. 2016 Oct;363(20). pii: fnw225. Epub 2016 Sep 25.

Unlocking the black box: teaching mathematical modeling with popular culture.

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Paul G. Allen School for Global Animal Health, Washington State University, Pullman, WA 99164, USA Community Health Analytics Initiative, Washington State University, Pullman, WA 99164, USA


Mathematical modeling is an important tool in biological research, allowing for the synthesis of results from many studies into an understanding of a system. Despite this, the need for extensive subject matter knowledge and complex mathematics often leaves modeling as an esoteric subspecialty. A 2-fold approach can be used to make modeling more approachable for students and those interested in obtaining a functional knowledge of modeling. The first is the use of a popular culture disease system-a zombie epidemic-to allow for exploration of the concepts of modeling using a flexible framework. The second is the use of available interactive and non-calculus-based tools to allow students to work with and implement models to cement their understanding.


epidemiology; infectious disease; mathematical modeling; teaching; zombies

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