MAS316 Mathematical modelling of natural systems

Semester 2, 2017/18 10 Credits
Lecturer: Dr Alex Best Home page (also MOLE) Timetable Reading List
Aims Assessment

Mathematical modelling enables insight in to a wide range of scientific problems. This module will provide a practical introduction to techniques for modelling natural systems. Students will learn how to construct, analyse and interpret mathematical models, using a combination of differential equations, scientific computing and mathematical reasoning. Students will learn the art of mathematical modelling: translating a scientific problem into a mathematical model, identifying and using appropriate mathematical tools to analyse the model, and finally relating the significance of the mathematical results back to the original problem. Study systems will be drawn from throughout the environmental and life sciences.

Prerequisites: MAS212 (Scientific Computing and Simulation) Please contact lecturers if you did not take this module; MAS222 (Differential Equations)
No other modules have this module as a prerequisite.

Outline syllabus

  • Evolution within ecological populations.
  • Spatial pattern formation in biology.
  • Individual and collective behaviour of cells.


  • develop students’ skills in comprehending problems, formulating them mathematically and obtaining solutions by appropriate methods;
  • provide practical demonstrations of how mathematical modelling may be used to gain insight in to the dynamics of natural systems;
  • build on mathematical methods (ordinary/partial differential equations, linear stability analysis, scientific computing in Python) learned at earlier levels, and expose students to how they can be used to model natural systems.

12 lectures, no tutorials, 9 practicals


Three pieces of coursework, with no examination.

Reading list

Type Author(s) Title Library Blackwells Amazon
B Ellner and Guckenheimer Dynamic Models in Biology 570.15118 (E) Blackwells Amazon
B Fall, Marland, Wagner and Tyson Computational Cell Biology 571.6015118 (C) Blackwells Amazon
B Langtangen A Primer on Scientific Programming with Python Blackwells Amazon
B Murray Mathematical Biology II: Spatial Models and Biomedical Applications Blackwells Amazon
B Murray JD Mathematical Biology I: An Introduction 570.15118 (M) Blackwells Amazon

(A = essential, B = recommended, C = background.)

Most books on reading lists should also be available from the Blackwells shop at Jessop West.


Tue 12:00 - 12:50 lecture   Hicks Lecture Theatre 3
Tue 16:00 - 16:50 lecture   Hicks Room G25