Systems biology is a rapidly growing field that focuses on the complex interactions in biological systems and how these interactions give rise to the function and behaviour of that system. Systems Biology is highly interdisciplinary and combines competences from areas such as bioinformatics, computer science, mathematical modelling, micro-biology, molecular biology, genetics and biostatistics.
Data on biological systems is being generated at an unprecedented rate by new high-throughput techniques. Consequently, we are rapidly accumulating information about practically all aspects of cell function, such as DNA and protein sequences, mRNA expression levels, post-translational modifications, protein-protein interactions, metabolic pathways, protein complexes etc. Other sources of information such as textual descriptions of disease phenotypes, patient histories, and even the scientific literature itself can also be considered data types, and these are likewise becoming available in constantly growing databases. New methods and new approaches (with a special focus on integration of the many disparate data types) are needed to convert these enormous data resources into biological knowledge. Here, alternating between computational analysis (modelling, prediction, ranking of alternative hypotheses) and experimental work is particularly fruitful.
Data on the biological variation within populations is also becoming available. For instance, complete genome sequences of individuals offer new bioinformatic challenges and opportunities for understanding the complex relationship between genetics and phenotype. In particular, this information will make it possible to identify the relationship between an individual’s genetic background, environmental factors and their predisposition to genetic diseases – information that can lead to “personalised medicine”. Among environmental factors, the special role of nutrition is beginning to be exploited by the field of nutrigenomics.
There are many opportunities for basic and applied science when engineering principles are brought to bear on biological systems. This exciting field of study promises to shed new light on basic biological phenomena and may lead to the prediction of novel drug targets or the development of more efficient cell factories for the production of pharmaceuticals, food ingredients or alternative fuels.
Academic requirements and list of courses
If you have any questions, please contact Program Coordinator Anders Gorm Pedersen.