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Noah Rosenberg: How biology is becoming more mathematical

A geneticist explains why biology, a field once thought relatively removed from mathematics, is quickly becoming a hotbed of computational science.

Decorative green palette watercolor and colored pencils create a DNA inspired abstract illustration on a white background

With applications in health care, forensic genetics, and human evolution, mathematical biology is more relevant than ever. | Stocksy/Liliya Rodnikova

Biology is not typically considered a mathematically intensive science, says Noah Rosenberg, an expert in genetics, but all that is about to change.

Math, statistics, data and computer science have coalesced into a growing interest in applying quantitative skills to this traditionally qualitative field.

The result will be better and more accurate models of life, ranging from genetic inheritance to the entirety of human society. The yield will be a greater understanding and, quite possibly, revolutionary interventions into disease, ecology, demography, and even evolution itself. The tools of mathematical biology have never been more apparent, Rosenberg says, as mathematical models of the spread of infectious disease have been central around the world in the response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

With applications in health care, forensic genetics, and human evolution, the tools of mathematical biology are proving more relevant and more needed than ever, as Noah Rosenberg tells Stanford Engineering’s The Future of Everythingpodcast, with host bioengineer Russ Altman.