**Unit 1: Introduction to Computational Biology**
*This unit will serve as your introduction to the basic principles and
procedures of computational biology. We will begin by discussing the
application of mathematics to biological phenomena and then learn in
detail how computers can be used to create and manipulate mathematical
models.

How does a scientist extract variables from a natural process in order to create a predictive mathematical formula and then use that formula to create a computer program through which he can quickly manipulate variables to simulate a variety of circumstances within a complex environment? You will learn each step of that process here. Upon completion of this unit, you should have a clear understanding of the process of creating a computational model in biology.*

**Unit 1 Time Advisory**

This unit should take approximately 21 hours to complete.

☐ Subunit 1.1: 5 hours

☐ Subunit 1.2: 1 hour

☐ Subunit 1.3: 7 hours

☐ Subunit 1.4: 4 hours

☐ Subunit 1.5: 4 hours

**Unit1 Learning Outcomes**

Upon completion of this unit, the student will be able to:
- Define computational biology.
- Explain the role of models and variables.
- Describe what networks are and how they are used.
- Define several types of mathematical algorithms.

**1.1 What is Computational Biology?**
- **Reading: Wikipedia’s “Computational Biology”**
Link: Wikipedia’s “Computational
Biology”
(HTML)

```
Instructions: Read this webpage, paying particular attention to the
description of computational biology and the related fields of
study.
Reading this material should take approximately 30 minutes.
Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use
displayed on the webpage above.
```

**1.1.1 Biology**
- **Reading: Nature News: Lucas Laursen’s “Computational Biology:
Biology Logic”**
Link: Nature News: Lucas Laursen’s “Computational Biology: Biology
Logic”
(HTML)

```
Instructions: Please read the linked article above, which will give
you an idea of how computer models are being developed to understand
biological systems.
Reading this material should take approximately 30 minutes.
Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use
displayed on the webpage above.
```

**1.1.2 Applied Mathematics**
- **Reading: PLoS Biology: J. Cohen’s “Mathematics Is Biology’s Next
Microscope, Only Better; Biology Is Mathematics’ Next Physics, Only
Better”**
Link: PLoS Biology: J. Cohen’s “Mathematics Is Biology’s Next
Microscope, Only Better; Biology Is Mathematics’ Next Physics, Only
Better”
(HTML)

```
Instructions: Please read the linked material. In it, the author
provides an historical sketch of how biology and math are connected
and describes the increasingly strong relationship between math and
biology.
Reading this material should take approximately 30 minutes.
Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use
displayed on the webpage above.
```

**1.1.3 Computer Science**
- **Reading: OMICS Publishing Group’s “Journal of Computer Science and
System Biology”**
Link: OMICS Publishing Group’s “Journal of Computer Science and
System Biology” (HTML)

```
Instructions: This is the home page for the journal. If you
explore the site, you will find many articles related to the use of
computer science in biology. Click the current issue or previous
issue links to find articles. You should see this site as a
resource and take the time to read a couple of articles that are
related to material in the course.
Reading this material should take approximately 2 hours.
Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use
displayed on the webpage above
```

**1.1.4 Statistics**
- **Lecture: Mathematical Sciences Research Institute: “Algebraic
Statistics for Computational Biology”**
Link: Mathematical Sciences Research Institute: “Algebraic
Statistics for Computational
Biology”
(QuickTime)

```
Instructions: This lecture presents a variety of statistics that
are used in computational biology; please watch it in its entirety
and pay particular attention to the statistics that are presented.
You will need QuickTime 6.5 or higher to view this resource.
Viewing this lecture should take approximately 1.3 hours.
Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use
displayed on the webpage above.
```

**1.2 Mathematical Treatment of Biology**
**1.2.1 Creating a Mathematical Equation**
- **Reading: University of Utah: D. Dobson’s “Lecture Notes on
Mathematical Modeling”**
Link: University of Utah: D. Dobson’s “Lecture Notes on
Mathematical
Modeling” (PDF)

```
Instructions: Click on the “Lecture Notes” link. This reading
provides a general description of the modeling process and lists a
variety of reasons for modeling.
Reading this material should take approximately 45 minutes.
Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use
displayed on the webpage above.
```

**Reading: eHow’s “How to Build a Mathematical Model”**Link: eHow’s “How to Build a Mathematical Model” (HTML)Instructions: Read this step-by-step procedure for building a model. This is a very general overview; it only touches on the general process.

Reading this material should take approximately 15 minutes.

Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

**1.3 Networks in Biology**
- **Reading: MIT: Dr. George Church’s “Networks 1-3”**
Link: MIT: Dr. George Church’s “Networks
1-3”
(JWPlayer)

```
Instructions: Listen to the three audio lectures titled Networks 1,
2, and 3 from this course on Genomics and Computational Biology from
MIT’s OpenCourseWare initiative. You should download and the view
the “Lecture Slides” PDF that accompanies each audio lecture and
view it while listening.
Viewing these lectures should take approximately 4.45 hours.
Terms of Use: George Church, HST.508, Fall 2002. (Massachusetts
Institute of Technology: MIT OpenCourseWare), <http://ocw.mit.edu>
(Accessed August 28, 2012). License: [Creative Commons BY-NC-SA
3.0](http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/3.0/us/).
```

**1.3.1 Random Networks**
- **Reading: University of Arizona: Robert May’s “Networks”**
Link: University of Arizona: Robert May’s
“Networks”
(PDF)

```
Instructions: Scroll down the page to the section on “Papers” and
look for May: “Network structure and the biology of populations”
TREE 21: 394. This paper discusses several types of networks,
including random networks.
Reading this material should take approximately 1 hour.
Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use
displayed on the webpage above.
```

**1.3.2 Small-World Phenomenon**
- **Reading: Cornell University: Jon Kleinberg’s “The Small-World
Phenomenon”**
Link: Cornell University: Jon Kleinberg’s “The Small-World
Phenomenon”
(HTML)

```
Instructions: This reading describes the phenomena of the small
world before introducing a network model and its related
algorithms.
Reading this material should take approximately 1.3 hours.
Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use
displayed on the webpage above.
```

**1.3.3 Scale-Free Network Model**
- **Reading: Scholarpedia’s “Scale-free Network Model”**
Link: Scholarpedia’s “Scale-free Network
Model”
(HTML)

```
Instructions: The page discusses several different models and lists
some of their respective mathematical properties. Pay attention to
how scale free networks are defined.
Reading this material should take approximately 30 minutes.
Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use
displayed on the webpage above.
```

**1.4 Algorithms**
**1.4.1 Classes of Algorithms**
- **Reading: Connexions’ “Introduction to Algorithms”**
Link: Connexions’ “Introduction to
Algorithms” (HTML)

```
Instructions: This reading covers subunits 1.4.1.1-1.4.1.4. Please
read the linked material, which describes the different algorithms
and how they are classified. This page also includes a number of
links that you should explore to enhance your understanding of the
different types of algorithms.
Reading this material should take approximately 2 hours.
Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use
displayed on the webpage above.
```

**1.4.1.1 Recursive**
*Note: The reading for this subunit is covered by the material under
subunit 1.4.1, “Algorithms.”*

**1.4.1.2 Logical**
*Note: The reading for this subunit is covered by the material under
subunit 1.4.1, “Algorithms.”*

**1.4.1.3 Distributed**
*Note: The reading for this subunit is covered by the material under
subunit 1.4.1, “Algorithms.”*

**1.4.1.4 Approximated**
*Note: The reading for this subunit is covered by the material under
subunit 1.4.1, “Algorithms.”*

**1.4.2 Graph Drawing**
**1.4.2.1 Dijkstra’s Algorithm**
- **Reading: Wikipedia’s “Dijkstra’s Algorithm”**
Link: Wikipedia’s “Dijkstra’s
Algorithm”
(HTML)

```
Instructions: Read this entry on Dijkstra’s algorithm and the
coding associated with it. The description of the algorithm on the
page may be a useful starting point.
Reading this material should take approximately 1 hour.
Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use
displayed on the webpage above.
```

**1.4.2.2 Kruskal’s Algorithm**
- **Reading: Wikipedia’s “Kruskal’s Algorithm”**
Link: Wikipedia’s “Kruskal’s
Algorithm”
(HTML)

```
Instructions: The reading describes Kruskal’s algorithm, its
performance, and includes a proof of correctness. Try comparing
this algorithm to Dijkstra’s algorithm from above.
Reading this material should take approximately 1 hour.
Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use
displayed on the webpage above.
```

**1.5 Dynamic Programming**
**1.5.1 Principle of Optimality**
- **Reading: Duke University: Steven Skiena’s “Principle of
Optimality”**
Link: Duke University: Steven Skiena’s “Principle of
Optimality”
(PDF)

```
Instructions: Click on “lecture13.pdf” to download the PDF. The
reading briefly discusses the principle of optimality and then
provides details dynamic programming.
Reading this material should take approximately 1 hour.
Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use
displayed on the webpage above.
```

**1.5.2 Optimal Substructure**
**1.5.2.1 Recursion**
- **Reading: Wikipedia’s “Recursion”**
Link: Wikipedia’s
“Recursion”
(HTML)

```
Instructions: The article defines recursion and discusses recursion
data, programs, and algorithms.
Reading this material should take approximately 1.15 hours.
Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use
displayed on the webpage above.
```

**1.5.2.2 Bellman-Ford Algorithm**
- **Reading: CSAnimated’s “Bellman-Ford Algorithm”**
Link: CSAnimated’s “Bellman-Ford
Algorithm”
(Flash)

```
Instructions: This is an animated slide show that describes the
algorithm. It has an audio component associated with it so make
sure you are on a computer where you can hear it while viewing the
animated slide show.
Viewing this material should take approximately 1 hour.
Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use
displayed on the webpage above.
```

**1.5.3 Overlapping Problems**
**1.5.3.1 Top-Down Approach**
- **Reading: wordIQ’s “Top Down”**
The Saylor Foundation does not yet have materials for this portion
of the course. If you are interested in contributing your content to
fill this gap or aware of a resource that could be used here, please
submit it here.

```
[Submit Materials](/contribute/)
```

**1.5.3.2 Bottom-Up Approach**
- **Reading: wordIQ’s “Bottom-up”**
The Saylor Foundation does not yet have materials for this portion
of the course. If you are interested in contributing your content to
fill this gap or aware of a resource that could be used here, please
submit it here.

```
[Submit Materials](/contribute/)
```