Biology PhD to Mathematics MSc


======= Date Modified 05 38 2010 22:38:53 =======
I almost finish my PhD in biology and am writing my thesis. I want to do mathematical modelling in biology in future. So I am now considering doing a one-year mathematics master course. I already got an offer from a university. It's just the tuition fee is very high as I am an international student. I don't know if it is worth doing this course. Any advice from biologists or mathematician? For the course itself, is it easy to find a job for an applied mathematical degree? Thanks in advance.


By the way. I am not going to quit current PhD. i just want to do the course after my PhD.


Hi Euler

Congratulations on almost finishing your PhD.

I have made a move similar to the one you are describing (Biochemistry undergrad -> Bioinformatics MSc -> Statistical Genetics PhD) but as you can see I made the transition earlier that you describe, taking the MSc straight after my undergrad.

Have you had any exposure to mathematical modeling in biology during your PhD? An MSc is a commitment it would be unwise to undertake if you are not sure that you want to go into that area. Which MSc are you considering? Do you know who you would like to work with?

A large part of what I learnt during my MSc was not the specific skills but the more general ones, about research, independent learning and time management. It is possible to teach oneself the specifics "on the job", indeed I am doing that now as some skills and knowledge I need for my PhD research were not covered in the MSc. As such to do an MSc would be redundant as you might feel you have already sufficient experience for these "softer" skills.

I think a better bet than doing an MSc in mathematics would be to determine which group does work you are interested in and to approach them to see how they would consider an applicant such as yourself. I know a number of people working in this field who come from diverse backgrounds. Or speak to your university or department's career service, as they may have some good advice.

Good luck!



Hi Euler,

I'm not a biologist but I have do have an undergraduate degree in mathematics. Are the techniques that you will cover in the MSc applicable to your research area? The problem is that if it's not directly applicable to biology, the MSc would be almost worthless to you. There are a vast number of topics that could be covered in a masters degree and I suspect there are only a limited number that would be of use in biology. I am in the process of completing a PhD in economic modelling and I have used only a small fraction of the knowledge gained in my undergraduate degree. I also know that whilst the mathematics used in economics is quite complex, the range of techniques used are relatively limited.

I'm sure a biologist would give you a better insight but I suspect that if you could get a post within a research department that specialises in the type of research you are interested in, you would probably be able to learn everything you need from your colleagues.



======= Date Modified 06 Feb 2010 22:05:26 =======
Thanks a lot for your replies, ejc and sarahk5275. The course I am going to undertake is a modelling course. It have modules like partial differential equations, numerical analysis, numerical linear algebra and other special topics including several modules on mathematical biology which is exactly what I am after.

I considered applying for a postdoc position in this field. But when you see an ad like this, they always require you be trained in a mathematical discipline. And during my PhD, I only do bench work, there is nothing to do with mathematics. I learned some general mathematics in my spare time and that's why they offered me a place in the course.


I would suggest you talk to the people running the course, if they've offered you the course they must feel you are up to it but it would be nice to know how big a jump will be required in your maths skills. My BSc &MSc involved a lot of PDEs, numerical analysis and mathematical biology. They tend to use specific models but the equations that need to be solved/manipulated can take quite a bit of background knowledge of that sort of maths. Feel free to add more details, could be more specific.

Best of luck.


======= Date Modified 08 Feb 2010 23:12:51 =======
Hi, Mathkitty. How do you think of mathematical biology in your course? Are you interested?

Another reason that I want to undertake this course is that to study mathematics has long been a dream of mine. I just don't know if I am 'too old' to study it. I always want to understand the principles of our universe and thus want to read advanced physics. But without knowledge of mathematics, you just cannot grasp it.

I don't have any doubt about my ability to study the course. I am just not sure about 'after the course'. My initial intent was to do mathematical modelling in biology, besides this, What other things/jobs can I do after the course? I think mathematical students know more about this.