Computer Science Department Colloquium Series


Computation in Biology - New Opportunities and Old Pitfalls


Craig J. Benham
Mount Sinai School of Medicine


Room 105 (Small Auditorium)
Computer Science Building
Princeton University


4:00 PM (Tea reception at 3:00 pm in the Tea Room (Second Floor)
Wednesday, November 29, 1995


Biology is a science that periodically reinvents itself through the development of revolutionary new methodologies and perspectives. The discovery by Watson and Crick of the linear encoding of genetic information in molecular sequences gave rise to the current revolution, in which the fundamental determinants of many important biological phenomena are seen to be molecular in nature. This revolutionary new perspective, largely developed by renegade physicists, brings biology into the realm of the traditional "hard" sciences - physics, chemistry and mathematics. It also vastly increases the roles of theory, and more recently information science, in biology. These developments provide major new opportunities for computer scientists to contribute, both because the physical and theoretical perspectives are so new and because few biologists have been trained in them.

This talk will describe one point of view on the opportunities and pitfalls facing a computer scientist who wishes to work on new biological problems. The cultural perspective from which biologists view their domain will be described. The relative importance of different types of computational tools in biology will be examined. Several new directions will be described that are becoming accessible through the emergence of new types of biological information. Examples will be given of problems which could form the cores of strong, multi-decade research programs in several areas of emerging importance in biology.

Document last modified on November 13, 1995