BIOL398-01/S11:Class Journal Week 1

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Reflection Questions

Before reading the Stewart chapters (on your honor), answer the following questions;

  1. When you hear the term mathematics, what comes to mind?
  2. Do you consider yourself a mathematician? why or why not?

Before reading the Janovy chapter (on your honor), answer the following questions;

  1. When you hear the term biology, what comes to mind?
  2. Do you consider yourself a biologist? why or why not?

After reading the Stewart and Janovy chapters, answer the following questions:

  1. What did you find most interesting or provocative about the Stewart reading?
  2. What did you find most interesting or provocative about the Janovy reading?
  3. What does it mean to be a biologist? Do you consider yourself a biologist? Why or why not?
  4. What does it mean to be a mathematician? Do you consider yourself a mathematician? Why or why not?
  5. What are the similarities and differences between the two readings?
  6. Please feel free to read and respond to your classmates' answers.

Class Responses

Sarah Carratt's Journal Entry

Before reading


  • When I hear the term "mathematics," I think of my MATH132 class and the equations I was never quite able to grasp. With further thought, I remember the problem-solving side of math that I have always loved.
  • When I think of mathematicians, I think of my suite-mate. She is constantly practicing advanced math and learning new skills in the field of mathematics. While I use math quite often, I will never consider myself a mathematician because I think that takes away from the value of true math-lovers.


  • When I think of biology, I think of the study of life and frankly, I think about spiders. After two years of working in a biology lad dedicated to these 8-legged critters, it is the immediate association that my mind makes.
  • I do consider myself a biologist because I believe I am contributing to the scientific community through my work and because so much of my time is dedicated to this subject.

Sarah Carratt 20:54, 16 January 2011 (EST)

After Reading

  • In the Stewart reading, my favorite part was about the dean of faculty counting the lights on the ceiling. It seemed like something that I would find myself doing, though maybe not for the same math-mentality.
  • In the Janovy reading, the most interesting part to me was where he talks about being history's hero. It is really interesting to think about why research questions are chosen and what projects are given funding. It bothers me to think about having to bend my thoughts towards the group mentality in order to receive support.
  • A biologist is a detective. An investigator of life who asks a question and seeks the answer through his or her research. I consider myself to be a biologist because I use the techniques and skills I learn from other professionals to answer questions about the world.
  • To be a mathematician is to see math outside of a textbook, to view the world as a problem to solve. In this respect, I love problem solving and I could be a mathematician, but the title still seems too important to waste on me. I do believe I see many things in similar ways to a mathematician, but I am not a mathematician, regardless of what Stewart says.
  • Both the authors seemed to believe that the world and their jobs are viewed incorrectly. They focused on trying to open the eyes of the reader to new perspectives and gave many examples. Between the two authors, however, I was much more intrigued by Stewart's work and style of writing. I liked the personal touch it seemed to have.

Sarah Carratt 20:54, 16 January 2011 (EST)

Carmen E. Castaneda's Journal Entry

Before reading.

When I hear the term mathematics, I start to think about numbers, computations and mathematicians. Yes I consider myself a mathematician because I am a student of the study of numbers and I actively use it. Right now, when I hear biology, cells and DNA come to my mind. I actually do not consider myself a biologist because I'm not constantly practicing biology.

After reading.

I personally found it very interesting, how even I, as a math major, was overlooking all the math that surrounds us. People have definitely hidden math so well that it is pretty sad that we do not give it the credit it deserves or are able to see it in action unless we consciously remind ourselves that it is there, like putting those red stickers. I was very intrigued by the biological examples he provided in chapter 6. It is interesting how math is engraved in such a way that it occurs all on its on like the way birds arrange themselves, I did not think much about it whenever I saw it happen, so now I cannot wait to see it happen in real life and become more aware of it.

It was an interesting approach to try to open the mind of the audience to the world of Biology. I really liked how he used really life to demonstrate his point. For example, when he spoke of the non biology students and his approach to help them achieve a biologist's worldview, I thought that was a very interesting method, and apparently very effective.

To be a biologist you have to see the world not only for its beauty but also for its inner workings and developments. You must be sensitive to our surroundings and value each of its creations as a key to solving the ultimate puzzle of what the earth holds and how everything works. Yes I think I can consider myself a biologist because I feel like I embrace the world's beauty and question it as a way to understand how things work.

To be a mathematician you have to be able to recognize that math exists outside of the classroom. You have to be able to recognize patterns and numbers where they are often overlooked. You have to understand the world would not function the way it does without a mathematical model, a set of equations underlying in the background. Finally you must understand that math is not a label, or an amount of money but a lifestyle, one that must be embraced. For that reason I can confidently say I do consider myself a mathematician.

I really liked how both authors help the reader recognize and become more aware of what biology and math surrounds us and hides as the world functions because without it the world would not be the way it is. In the Stewart reading I felt like it was a more cute approach to achieve the ultimate conclusion of math being everywhere while in the Janovy reading, it had a nice and easy to follow through development but sometimes he kind of went on sorts of tangents to achieve his goal about biology.

Carmen E. Castaneda 09:17, 16 January 2011 (EST)

Alondra Vega's Journal Entry

Before reading questions: Stewart:

  1. When I here the term mathematics, numbers automatically come to mind. Anything that has to do with answering problems, patterns, shapes and the logic in answering a question comes to mind. I know that as a math major I have taken courses in math that deal with no numbers just deal with proofs, but proofs never come to mind.
  2. I do consider myself a mathematician because I am studying mathematics and I am able to solve problems that are given to whether they may be analytical or pure (for the courses that i have taken). At the same time though, I do not consider myself a mathematician because I fail to recognize many of the patterns that are in other areas such as biology, chemistry, etc. I d not enjoy the pure side mathematics as much as the applied side. Thus, I consider myself an applied mathematician.


  1. When I hear the term biology, nature and animals are the first to come to mind. It is not until I think abut it a little longer that the cell and microorganisms come to mind. I think that it reflects my interests in the field.
  2. I do not consider myself a biologists. I feel that biology's main focus is doing research and I am more of a social person and want to focus on the healthcare applications of biology.

After reading:

  1. The part that I found most interesting about the Stewart reading is how he is able to relate mathematics to everything in the world. I must admit that even I failed to see how much math is behind the scenes. i would always think about other disciplines such as physics. I know that physics uses equations and that falls under the math category, but Stewart showed how its not just physics is how math and the concepts of physics come together.
  2. The part that I found most interesting was how he tried t show how biologists think. I never really saw it the way he described it as full of values from role models in history. I never thought that the world values would come up in a description of biology since many of the things done in the biological field are said to be "immoral", such a practicing on animals. He gives values a new definition towards nature and towards biologists.
  3. To be a biologists it means that one appreciates how all the puzzle pieces come together to make a beautiful picture. One must appreciate not only the beauty of things, but also how things work. I do consider myself a biologists because I have always been fascinated with life and its inner workings, specially in the world or microorganisms.
  4. To be a mathematician it means that you can see the world through the eyes of mathematics. Math is behind the scenes and only the few people who are interested in the real truth of how things work study mathematics. The information that the world holds about math is enormous and most of the best math problems have not even been solved yet. After reading Stewart, I do consider myself a mathematician. I am intrigued by ho things work and why. i try to see the patterns in nature and what goes into making something run.
  5. These readings were similar in the sense that they both explained biology and mathematics in a world level. they did not focus on specifics very much; they wanted to show how both biology and math are hidden in everything that lives or is in this planet. They differ in their approach of achieving this goal. I feel that the Stewart reading gets to the point and gives an elegant answer to Meg's questions, while Janovy takes a different approach by using examples of his life and the biologists that he knows. Some of his examples are on the far side and it took awhile to grasp what he was saying, but overall they were both really good readings.

Alondra Vega 16:50, 16 January 2011 (EST)

James Clements' Entry

Before Question Responses


  1. Hearing the term "mathematics" makes Gauss come to mind.
  2. I do not consider myself a mathematician since I am not dedicated to the discovery of new mathematics.


  1. I think about green plants and microbes when I hear the term biology
  2. I do not consider myself a biologist. As an individual pursuing bioengineering, I am focused on using what has been discovered about biology to improve the quality of human life. I see biologists as the people who make discoveries about biology.

After Question Responses

  1. The most provocative part of the Stewart reading is how he broadly encompasses every use of mathematics into the work of a mathematician. I think that this means of categorizing what a mathematician does is fairly naive and devalues what mathematicians really do; yes math is used in science and engineering, but that does not make those folks mathematicians. A mathematician pushes the field of mathematics into new places. A pure mathematician focuses on proving concepts and an applied mathematician brings math to new applications. Conversely, an engineering using a Fourier transform for the quadrillionth time to interpret a signal from the Mars Rover is not a mathematician; this person would simply be using math.
  2. I find the bit in section 5 of the Janovy chapter about how it is not necessary to be a professional in order to be a biologist to be particularly interesting. I agree with Janovy that being a biologist in the broad definition of the term does not require professional training, but I do think professionals ask the right questions more often than amateurs. It seems that the key difference from undergraduates and professors and that professors are better able to ask questions that can get to the core of phenomena. Since the skill of questioning appears to be acquired, I would argue that professional biologists are capable of producing work that is vastly superior to that of the amateur.
  3. To paraphrase from Janovy, being a biologist requires making novel observations about nature and melding them into a synthesis of understanding. I still do not consider myself a biologist after reading the text. Instead of observing nature in its own setting and bringing about new understanding, I have a desire to observe human issues and use an understanding of biology in order to solve such issues.
  4. Stewart seems to believe that just about anyone with a pulse is a mathematician. The manipulation of numbers is the only requirement for participating in the field. I strongly disagree with this, please refer to my response to question 1. I do not consider myself to be a mathematician; I don't do any sort of work that brings the field to new places.
  5. The most common theme between the readings is the idea that math and biology surround us and that the studying of each field helps bring humans to a new place in history. Aside from the subject matter, the type of writing differs. Stewart's text is written (perhaps unintentionally) as a defense of mathematics. He writes passages like "does anyone besides me actually make a living doing math?" that imply that the common view of mathematics is that it is not lucrative. Throughout the text Stewart defends mathematics from several other "broadly conceived" notions. Janovy, on the other hand writes about what it means to be a naturalist and how to participate in the field. He writes from the stance that not everyone understands what it means to be a naturalist without coming across while maintaining a positive tone about his subject.

James C. Clements 02:26, 17 January 2011 (EST)

Nicholas A. Rohacz's Entry



  1. When I hear the word mathematics, the first thing to come to mind is the discovery of the Cartesian Coordinate system and how a fly was the cause for the discovery.
  2. Yes I do, I believe that my consistent study in mathematics and the joy I take from learning new material would safely allow me to consider myself a Mathematician, even if only an amateur.


  1. When I hear the word biology the first thought that comes to mind is the study of living organisms, as well as my AP Bio test back in high school.
  2. I would not consider myself a full Biologist, but I've definitely studied aspects of biology that need to be studied to be considered a Biologist, but that is not where my aspirations lie so I would not really consider myself a Biologist.

Nicholas A. Rohacz 02:15, 18 January 2011 (EST)


  1. The first chapter of the Stewart reading was by much more provocative than the sixth chapter. The author gave much clearer examples of how mathematics are used in the world around us, even though he never cited any formulas. However, it was interesting to see just how many ways advanced mathematics are used in the world around us and nobody would ever suspect.
  2. The most provocative part of the Janovy reading was the fact that they consider being a Biologist, not a career, so much as a life choice. There are several places where they insist that a Biologist uses the specimen they study as a way to have meaning in their life.
  3. The point to being a Biologist is not finding out how everything works, because that's an unrealistic goal. And only studying how the human processes occur won't get one anywhere, because humans are relatively new on the planet Earth, as opposed to other species such as Amphibia or Reptilia. Instead, being a Biologist is about finding meaning, by observing nature and its numerous processes, some Biologists are able to find meaning in their career and others are turned away by this very same fact. As I read this article I slowly came to the conclusion that I am not a Biologist, at least not a full one, because I have yet to find a species or something in the Biological world to truly stir my inspiration.
  4. The view that Stewart gave me into the world of mathematicians is that they can be found anywhere because mathematics encompasses everything. This must give them the ability to learn about anything, that is, if everything incorporates mathematics. Math is included in some trivial matters, to paraphrase Stewart, the rainbow is created by the reflection off all the raindrops to make everyone a personal rainbow. Stewarts readings, however, did not influence my decision about what a mathematician is, not saying that my definition is more correct, only he failed to change my mind from what I am already set on. And yes, I still consider myself a partial mathematician.
  5. Both the Stewart and Janovy readings have a few focuses in common. One being that they both talk about how much mathematics and biology, respectively, are used in the world around us and how important they are from the smallest thing such as growing food, to the most advanced things, like driving rovers across mars.

Nicholas A. Rohacz 03:40, 18 January 2011 (EST)