What are the origins of life? The human race has been pondering this question since the dawn of civilisation. The diversity and complexity of the life that inhabits the earth would seem to require that the answer be a complex one, yet developments in science indicate that such complexity can emerge from simple interactions. In this program we will investigate the mathematical basis of the origins of life. We will investigate how ordered structures can emerge from random processes. We will study cellular automata and how they can be used to model self-replicating structures. An essential component of understanding the origins of life is to understand its evolution. To that end we will examine mathematical aspects of evolution including the evolution of macromolecules and the genetic code, the game theoretic modelling of animal behaviour and the dynamics of population genetics.
This interdisciplinary program is intended for students with an interest in pursuing connections between biology and mathematics. No previous background in biology is required, but the program will be enriched by the presence of students with such a background. Facility with college level pre-calculus is essential. Upper division science credit will be awarded for upper division work.