Lincoln News

Student-Faculty Research Team Develop App To Assist Students Apply Math To Biology

Dr. Susan Safford and Dr. Tiffanie Smith
Dr. Susan Safford and Dr. Tiffanie Smith

After seeing first-year biology students struggle to apply math to their studies, Dr. Susan Safford, a biology professor, gathered a team of faculty and student researchers from biology, mathematical sciences, and computer science to find a creative solution.

With the support of a three year National Science Foundation-Targeted Infusion Projects grant, Safford; Dr. Tiffanie Smith, a computer science professor; Brianna Blake, a biochemistry and molecular biology student; Pedro Martinez, a math student; and Rumeel Jessamy '18, a computer science graduate; were among 15 students and several professors who created the app Ashmun Express, named after Ashmun Institute, Lincoln University’s original name, which was changed in 1866 following the death of President Lincoln.

Ashmun Express is an app designed to help undergraduate students tackle mathematical problems in biology. It is targeted at students in lower level biology classes who need support. It provides short tutorials and example problems based around biology questions, helping students to make the connection between math and biology.

“I always try and help my students overcome areas they find difficult,” said Dr. Safford. “One reason I assign math application problems is to help them see that math isn’t boring. The repetition involved might be but solving the mysteries of datasets certainly is not.”

Biochemistry student Brianna Blake cited the app’s collaborative features as one of its greatest strengths. “The app is a great tool for students to tackle interactive problem-solving. Professors can see their progress and tailor their responses to students to help work on their weaknesses,” said Blake.

The app is in the prototype stage and has been used in classes at Lincoln University. The team hopes to have a version ready for download on Apple and Android devices by the end of the summer 2020 and will continue to improve its content throughout the coming year.

Learn more about the Ashmun Express app in an article by Futurum or by visiting