Term: Computational Biology
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Computational biology involves the development and application of data-analytical and theoretical methods, mathematical modeling and computational simulation techniques to the study of biological, behavioral, and social systems. The field is widely defined and includes foundations in computer science, applied mathematics, statistics, biochemistry, chemistry, biophysics, chemistry, molecular biology, genetics, ecology, evolution, anatomy, and neuroscience.

Computational Biology vs. Bioinformatics:
Bioinformatics and computational biology are rooted in life sciences as well as computer and information sciences and technologies. Both of these interdisciplinary approaches draw from specific disciplines such as mathematics, physics, statistics, computer science and engineering, biology, and behavioral science. Bioinformatics and computational biology each maintain close interactions with life sciences to realize their full potential. Bioinformatics applies principles of information sciences and technologies to make the vast, diverse, and complex life sciences data more understandable and useful. Computational biology uses mathematical and computational approaches to address theoretical and experimental questions in biology. Although bioinformatics and computational biology are distinct, there is also significant overlap and activity at their interface.

Another opinion is that Bioinformatics relates to anything to do with analysis, visualization and management of biological sequences, while Computational Biology refers to that plus everything else that involves computers in the solving of biological problems.

Studying Computational Biology:

The field of computational biology is growing as a major research intensive field that focuses on molecular dynamic simulations to help create models for biological understanding. Many universities including Florida State University have even created an undergraduate major in which relevant computer science and biological courses are amalgamated to provide a holistic view on biology and quantitative skills. The goals of the program at FSU are to give students a broad education that provides the skill set involved in attacking practical biomedical problems while developing an understanding of meaningful biomedical problems. These students who complete this degree will be prepared for careers in computational biology and bioinformatics.

On a graduate level, many top tier schools across the globe have started programs to obtain a PhD's in Computational Biology such as Carnegie Mellon. The International Society for Computational Biology has created a list of many schools that have graduate programs in Computational Biology at this link.

Employment and Research Opportunities:

Students who study Computational Biology are careers open up in healthcare, forensics and pharmaceutical companies. Research at universities is conducted in these areas of study:

  • Designing efficient Biological Algorithms for use on current day systems.
  • Analysis of protein folding and structures of genetic information ( DNA/RNA)
  • Comparative Genomics and Genomic Engineering.
  • Creating techniques that can be tested for use in molecular medicine.


Biology vs Computational Biology from vijay on Vimeo.

Web Resources:
PLoS Computational Biology
International Society for Computational Biology (ISCB)
IBM Research: Computational Biology
FSU Computational Biology

Related Terminology:
Health Informatics
Systems Biology
Biomedical Engineering

¹ Wikipedia.org - Computational Biology
² Life Sciences Scotland - Glossary of life sciences terms

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