Lawrence Technological University
College of Arts and Science
Department of Mathematics and Computer Sciences

Handouts

Bioinformatics, Genomics and the Masters of Science in Computer Science Program

   The 1990's brought rapid advances to the life sciences and some new terms like "bioinformatics." Much of the productivity of these past 20 years has been a result of collaboration between researchers from biology and computer science. The explosion of data exchange over the Internet fundamentally changed many collaborations in science and engineering. I hope this page will suggest reasons why you might want to join this particular collaboration -- from either the computer or the biology side.

   MCS 5603, Introduction to Bioinformatics, and MCS 5613, Genomics are courses in the Masters of Science in Computer Science Program that have developed into interdisciplinary courses suitable for students of biology, biomedical engineering and biomedical informatics. These courses are hands-on introductions using, building, searching, and leveraging life science databases Interdisciplinary collaboration between computer science and biology team members, the source of much of the recent rapid gain in the life science knowledge base, is also considered. The Web infrastructure for this collaboration will seem familiar to those in both disciplines. The biology student will learn a little about the workhorse of computer science, the relational database management systems of Edgar Codd. The computer student will learn a lot about the major, working, life science database systems that are hierarchical and extensively cross-linked without any regard for Codd's 12 rules.1

   Introduction to Bioinformatics takes a hands-on approach to understanding the important algorithms used to discover the information in the genetic code.

   Genomics also takes a hands-on approach, but to analyzing the information collected using techniques like those in Introduction to Bioinformatics to try and understand the behavior of the organism.

   Because these courses are intended for both computer students who want to learn more biology and biology students who want to learn more computing, graduate status in neither is a prerequisite. It is possible to begin with either Introduction to Bioinformatics or Genomics, but taking these two simultaneously is challenging.

   Genetics and Biostatistics are examples of additional courses that are recommended for interested students.

   Points of interest for computer science students in Introduction to Bioinformatics and Genomics

   Points of interest for life science students in Introduction to Bioinformatics and Genomics

Notes:

  1. Actually Codd had 13 rules, numbered from 0 to 12 in typical computer science fashion. For example, Rule 3 requires the systematic treatment of null or empty values. A relational database management system conforming to Rule 3, supports a representation of missing or inapplicable information that is distinct from all regular values (read, not zero, blank, 9999 or xxxx.) Over the years, curators of life science databases have used various ad hoc approaches to problematic data because as Dr. Julie Zwiesler-Vollick has said, "Biology is messy."
  2. e.g. Alan Turing found half a century ago that a computer, even bigger and faster than those in use today, which knows accurately all the code (or genome) of another computer (or organism) can not always predict what the second computer would do.

Revised January 3, 2011