The Conference on Physics in Undergraduate Quantitative Life Science Education will be held at George Washington University, for the day on October 24, 2009 to respond to two, recent, high-level reports have called for curricular changes in the undergraduate preparation of life science and premedical students. BIO2010, published by the National Academy of Sciences in 2004, emphasized that more quantitative training is needed for future researchers in biology. While this report is controversial in some quarters, it has been followed by a second study in June of 2009, the Scientific Foundations of Future Physicians, prepared by a joint Howard Hughes Medical Institute- Association of American Medical Colleges (HHMI/AAMC) committee, which clearly articulates that prospective medical students will be required to demonstrate specific quantitative proficiencies, many of which are not consistently taught to undergraduates in current pre-med programs. The medical schools have warmly received the HHMI/AAMC report and its ideas are likely to be phased into their admissions requirements over the next several years.
As physics faculty, we have a unique opportunity to respond positively to these calls for reform through changes in our introductory physics for the life sciences (IPLS) courses. This conference will look at the possibilities for and the implications of reform of the IPLS course offered by physics departments of different size and mission across the US. Growing out of discussions at this past summer's AAPT Meeting, this small conference is intended to lay the groundwork for future conferences and work on curriculum development.