Fun with Systems Biology

Systems biology is one of the most dynamically growing disciplines of biomedical sciences. I’ve always liked this approach to analyzing biological phenomena – using methods from engineering and mathematics to discover general principles on which biology is built. No wonder physicists, not biologists, are usually best at systems bio – they are trained in fishing the most important variables out of a see of potential less important ones. They also understand what it takes to build a rigorous mathematical model and to test it. One of their rank, Uri Alon from Weizmann Institute of Science, decided to publish his lectures on the subject online for the benefit of a larger public. The course is pretty comprehensive, but for those interested in a bit more detail, there is also the book, which can be used as companion for the lectures or as a standalone textbook. I really like his way of talking about systems biology – it’s not dry and mathematical, but rather gets to the bottom of the problem. He also answers a lot of students’ questions during the course, and so you get a glimpse of what is known and what issues are still unresolved. Obviously, there is no way to cover all of systems biology in a semester-long university course, but the lecture series and the book are enough to get you started exploring, by reading papers that he refers to and by perusing more advanced books on specific subjects.