Math 497G: Population Biology and Evolutionary Game Theory (Spring 2014)

Course Details

Instructors: Prof. Andrew Belmonte ( and Dr. Christopher Griffin (

Offices: 322 McAllister Building (AB) and 5 McAllister Building (CG)

Office Hours: T 11:30 - 12:30P (5 McAllister), W 11:00 - 1:00P (322 McAllister and 2:15P - 3:15P (5 McAllister) and By Appointment

Class Meeting Times: TR 10:10 - 11:00, 105 RACKLEY

Book: Game-Theoretical Models in Biology by Broom and Rychtar

Optional Books We will also provide a set of class notes on Angle

Prerequisites: Math 140, 141 and Math 220, or a course in Matrix Algebra, or permission of the instructor(s).

Web Site: and the Angel Course Site

Approximate Course Outline

Below is an approximate outline of what we will cover, with the main highlight(s) in each topic. Each topic will last somewhere between 1 and 2 weeks. We may not get to everything. I'll try and emphasize useful theory and practical computational considerations.
  1. Introduction to Differential Equations (with a review of Matrix Topics)
  2. Predator-Prey Models
  3. Epidemic Models
  4. Cellular Automata Models
  5. Introduction to Game Theory
  6. Evolutionary Stable Strategies
  7. Replicator Dynamics
  8. Alternatives to Replicator Dynamics
  9. Spatial Models (Partial Differential Equations)

Online Nature of the Course

This is a hybrid online course, which means a portion of the course content will be delivered online. We plan to make this component a collection of videos that show you how to use Mathematica or Matlab in the study of mathematical biology. You are expected to watch all of the posted videos. You may later be asked to use what you learned in an exercise.


Grading will be based on a combination of homework assignments and an independent project.
  1. Homework: 75%
  2. Project: 25%
You are encouraged to work together on anything you like. You may use any resources to do any assignment (book, notes etc.) but you must hand in your own work (don't just copy from some other source). Details on projects will be provided in a separate hand-out.

Assignment Due Dates

Planned and Unplanned Absences

If you are ill, please do not come to class. If this impacts your ability to turn in your homework or project, allowances will be made. We will work on the honor system, if you say you are sick and cannot turn something in, we will believe you. If this becomes habitual, we may change this policy.

You are free to skip class (you are adults, after all), but we strongly encourage you to attend. The class is relatively small and you will probably learn more by sitting in class and listening, following along in the notes and making your own annotations. You can and should ask questions in class and you will see problems worked out on the board. This will help make homework easier.

Academic Integrity

Academic Integrity: You are of course expected to abide by Penn State's academic integrity policy, which is fully stated at:

Academic integrity is the pursuit of scholarly activity in an open, honest and responsible manner...


Feedback can help us tailor the course to the class' intersests and learning style. Just as feedback on homework will tell you whether you are mastering the material, your feedback to me can tell me whether my presentation is effective and whether you are getting something good out of the class. As per usual, a teaching evaluation will be provided near the end of the semester. We strongly encourage you to fill it out. In addition, you may consider using the professor rating web site It is anonymous and will provide valuable feedback to other students.

Unfortunately, end of semester evaluations often come too late to make a difference to you. You are always welcome to come to office hours or send me an e-mail. If you feel uncomfortable telling me who you are, you may send anonymous feedback by e-mail using this link.

Statement on Disabilities

Penn State welcomes students with disabilities into the University's educational programs. If you have a disability-related need for reasonable academic adjustments in this course, contact the Office for Disability Services (ODS) at 814-863-1807 (V/TTY). For further information regarding ODS, please visit the Office for Disability Services Web site at

In order to receive consideration for course accommodations, you must contact ODS and provide documentation (see the documentation guidelines at If the documentation supports the need for academic adjustments, ODS will provide a letter identifying appropriate academic adjustments. Please share this letter and discuss the adjustments with your instructor as early in the course as possible. You must contact ODS and request academic adjustment letters at the beginning of each semester.