Spring 2018 - BISC 421 D100

Models in Biology: From Molecules to Migration (3)

Class Number: 12395

Delivery Method: In Person


  • Course Times + Location:

    Mo 2:30 PM – 4:20 PM
    AQ 5005, Burnaby

    We 2:30 PM – 3:20 PM
    AQ 5006, Burnaby

  • Exam Times + Location:

    Apr 16, 2018
    8:30 AM – 11:30 AM
    AQ 5018, Burnaby

  • Prerequisites:

    MATH 150 or 151, and 152 both with a grade of C+ or better, or MATH 154 and 155 both with a grade of B or better; and at least 60 units; or permission of the instructor. Recommended: A 100 level Biology course.



Students are introduced to models and simulations for biological systems at the ecosystem, organismal, cellular, and molecular levels. They will discover how to design and use models, and will then apply these skills to build their own model using basic mathematical tools, Excel, and Matlab. Students who have taken Special Topics course BISC 475 "Movement, Molecules, and Models" may not take BISC 421 for further credit. Quantitative.


The vast advances in the sciences, functional genomics and automatic data collection has made our understanding of various biological systems so complex that it is increasingly difficult to integrate all the relevant details using abstract reasoning alone. Modeling approaches integrate these details into useable models that can shed light on the mechanisms underlying the biological processes. The need for modeling skills, or at least familiarity with modeling, is becoming increasingly important in the life sciences.  

In this course you will learn how to approach modeling, how to design one and understand how a model can help in your research. In the process you will learn some basic mathematical tools that are necessary and possibly simple Excel programing or Matlab. I will show examples of different models used for a number of diverse biological systems and how patterns in nature can arise de novo through self-organization with visual computational simulations. This course is suited for all students who want to be able to recognize when a model can be helpful and develop one, as well as for those who want to understand models of biological systems or just want to broaden their perspective.    

Outline of Topics:

Ecosystem level models: how changes in the environment affect ecosystems; population and conservation models; infectious disease models and how to control the spread of diseases. Organismal models: development of the lateral line primordium in zebrafish; animal coat formation; vertebrate limb biomechanics; C. elegance embryogenesis. Molecular and cellular models: gene interactions/networks; tumor cell signaling and chemotaxis; enzyme Michaelis-Menten kinetics, inhibition and cooperation; chemostat; neurons and action potential; modeling the binding of oxygen to hemoglobin; Reaction diffusion models.


  • Possibly open to discussion with class at start of semester
  • Homework (includes an independent project) 40%
  • Midterm and quizzes 30%
  • Final 30%



Mathematical Models in Biology, Leah Edelstein-Keshet ISBN: 978-0-89871-554-5

Registrar Notes:

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