I have long harboured a passion for the application of mathematics and physics towards problems in biology and from my microbiology and bioinformatics experience, I very much consider myself much more of a bench scientist and all round "thinker".

Assuming someone had a strong biological background (PhD level) but wanted to study part time in order to gain the knowledge necessary to properly transition into the theoretical biology field, would it be best to study purely mathematics, physics, or mathematics and statistics? There is little in the way of career insight into this field and I believe it has yet to bloom, but all of these subjects contain highly applicable topics. Personally I am leaning more toward physics as I believe that this will not only give the mathematical background necessary, but the applied mindset that physicists possess but some mathematicians don't. However, many aspects of statistics are well rooted in biology, and of course mathematics on its own will give me more tools to apply.

I understand that no one course will cover all bases, but which would be the best to pursue in order to give me the strongest grounding for further study in this field? It is my intention to perhaps follow up this with a dedicated MSc in mathematical biology in order to give me the opportunity to study the direct application of my knowledge to biology.

Thanks in advance.

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    It seems to me that applied mathematics would be the natural field of study for you. Of course, you don't have time to study it broadly and you will want to focus depending on what part of mathematical/theoretical biology you wish to go into. Perhaps the most important question is whether you are interested in an area where models are primarily discrete (e.g., bioinformatics, genomics) or continuous (e.g. ecology, disease). The mathematics required to work in these areas is quite different. – David Ketcheson Feb 15 '16 at 13:41
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    Here's a standard text book on mathematical methods in a particular discipline, neuroscience. It's not as general, but immediately connects math to biology in the way you seem to plan on; and one of the authors' background is astrophysics (cosmic inflation/gravitational waves specialist in the past), so it's heavily influenced by methods of theoretical physics which you say you're interested in. – gnometorule Feb 15 '16 at 17:08