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Science Education: Computers in Biology

Genetic network map. Credit: Seth Berger.Computational tools and approaches offer opportunities to study biology in new and exciting ways, helping to answer questions like:

  • How do cells, human populations and other complicated biological systems behave under a variety of conditions?
  • How can we organize, share or visualize vast amounts of biological data?
  • What can we learn by simulating and modeling complex life processes?

Follow the links below to learn more about computers in biology, including recent discoveries, and read profiles of researchers working in this field.


Cover image of Computing LifeComputing Life
Shows how scientists use computers to advance our understanding of biology and human health.

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Fact Sheet

MIDAS Logo Modeling Infectious Diseases
Researchers are using computers to create virtual worlds where people get sick. Find out how this helps us understand and prevent the spread of actual infectious diseases.

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Articles on Research Advances

Network of proteins that interact with huntingtin. Credit: Credit: Cendrine Tourette, Buck Institute for Research on Aging,. Digging Deeply Into Data for the Causes of Disease
Hunting for the cause of a disease can be like tracing a river back to its many sources. Here are a few examples of how scientists are using bioinformatics to learn more about the development of diseases.

Screenshot of the FRED simulation where herd immunity is compared when 80% and 95% of the population has been immnunized. Simulating the Potential Spread of Measles
A free, mobile-friendly tool lets users simulate measles outbreaks in cities across the country to help them understand how the disease can spread.

Screen shot of the Wikipedia site. Credit: Stock image.Forecasting Infectious Disease Spread with Web Data
Anonymized social media and other publicly available Web data are improving the ability to forecast emerging infectious disease outbreaks and develop tools that can help health officials as they respond.

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Profiles: Meet a Scientist

Gary ChurchillMountains and Mouse Genes
Biostatistician Gary Churchill studies mouse genetics to link gene combinations to traits.

Joe ThorntonPast to Present
Evolutionary biologist Joe Thornton uses computers and other molecular biology tools to locate ancestral receptor genes.

Atul ButteDr. Data
Doctor-scientist Atul Butte uses computers to re-classify diseases.

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Audio and Video

Molecular Structure of a proteinCool Video: Meticulous Molecular Modeling
Researchers have developed software that combines different types of data to create 3-D models of molecules.

Russ AltmanDr. Russ Altman on Pharmacogenomics
Russ Altman discusses how computational approaches can help us understand interactions between genes and drugs.

CellsModeling How Molecules Move Inside Cells
Computational modeling helps explain why large molecules travel 15 times more slowly in the cell than in water.

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Cover image of Theoretical and Computational Biophysics Group's 2013 calendarCool Image: A Year of Scientific Beauty and Insights
The images in this free 2013 calendar from an NIGMS-funded center reveal new details about the inner workings of biological processes like blood coagulation, viral infection and whole cell behavior.

Cytoscape imageHairballs of Data
This image integrates the thousands of known molecular and genetic interactions happening inside our bodies using a computer program called Cytoscape.

BrainMapping Brain Differences
This image of the human brain uses colors and shapes to show neurological differences between two people.

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Quizzes and Puzzles

Computers in Science Professor Cartoon Test Your Science IQ! Game: Computers in Science
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Computing Life crosswordComputing Life Crossword Puzzle | Accessible Version

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This page last reviewed on March 31, 2015