BioMaPS/DIMACS Tutorial: Introduction to Modern Concepts in Biology for Mathematical and Physical Scientists

June 23 - July 3, 2003
DIMACS Center, CoRE Building, Rutgers University

William Sofer, Rutgers University,
Paul Ehrlich, Rutgers University,
Presented under the auspices of the Special Year on Computational Molecular Biology.

The BioMaPS/DIMACS tutorial ``Introduction to Modern Concepts in Biology for Mathematical and Physical Scientists'' is a 2-week intensive program divided into three related sections:

1) molecular biology, genetics, and biotechnology
2) cell biology,
3) presentations of current research

The goal of the tutorial is to introduce participants to topics in molecular and cell biology that are relevant to those who wish to explore or initiate work at the interface among biology, mathematics, computer science, chemistry, and physics. The tutorial will be appropriate for graduate students, postdocs, and mid-career scientists who wish to change direction. The first week of the tutorial, entitled ``The DNA Revolution,'' was designed by William Sofer, Professor of Genetics and member of the faculty of the Waksman Institute at Rutgers University, to introduce the fundamentals of modern molecular biology, genetics, and biotechnology to participants who have little background in biology or biochemistry. In addition, the class will examine scientific questions that interest present-day biomedical researchers. The emphasis will be on problems that can be addressed through quantitative approaches that are currently considered the domain of physics, chemistry, mathematics, or computer science. Lively discussions suitable for postgraduate training of physical scientists and mathematicians should be expected for these sessions.

Although the first week is focused on providing participants with a clear understanding of the major issues and accomplishments of modern biology, participants will also acquire an essential factual background through the use of an interactive ``Internet Textbook.'' This primer of biological information covers important chemical structures and biochemical processes as well as classical genetics. Building on this foundation are descriptions of several methods and research projects in genetic engineering and bioinformatics. This material will equip participants with the framework for understanding most other relevant technologies. In addition, a virtual laboratory has been designed to offer participants realistic exercises that illustrate the day-to-day activities of modern-day bench scientists. Finally, participants will be given the opportunity to develop bioinformatics research projects as part of the "hands-on" approach to training that Professor Sofer believes is most effective.

The second week of this tutorial will start with a review of cell biology that includes lectures given by Paul Ehrlich, Adjunct Professor of Cell Biology and member of the BioMaPS Institute at Rutgers University. He will examine energy generation, cell division including cell cycle control, cell communication including adhesion, and apoptosis as well as the structure and function of the cytoskeleton, membranes, and intracellular compartments. Basic information will be supplemented with a summary of open questions published by leaders of each discipline. In addition, major topics will be illustrated by an in-depth analysis of recently published biophysical studies that have made a significant contribution to the understanding of biological phenomena, e.g., mathematical models of cell and viral kinetics that explain the emergence of drug-resistant virus despite the use of highly effective drugs. Finally, participants will become familiar with important Websites useful to researchers at the interface of biology with the mathematical and physical sciences.

The second week will end with presentations on current research in fields at the interface among the biological, mathematical, and physical sciences. The first two parts of the tutorial should provide the participants with adequate preparation to gain insight and understanding from these presentations. They will be given by faculty of DIMACS and the BioMaPS Institute at Rutgers University.

Graduate students and others interested in the interface among the biological, mathematical, and physical sciences typically have extensive training in chemistry, physics, mathematics, statistics, or computer science but are less familiar with the biology-oriented, basic knowledge that modern biologists have acquired. This foundation is indispensable for the identification and appreciation of the main problems in biomedical research. Participation in the BioMaPS Institute/DIMACS tutorial will be a major step in building the foundation.

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Document last modified on April 16, 2003.