SC11 Education Workshop

Science Crossing Boundaries

Computational Science for Biology Educators

Calvin College  (Grand Rapids, MI) will be hosting an NCSI/SC11 faculty development workshop on computational science for biology June 26 (Sunday evening) through July 2 (Saturday afternoon), 2011.

Workshop details will be posted here as they become available.  If you have questions, contact us at isri@calvin.edu

At tentative schedule is now available. 

Target Audience, Costs, and Application Procedures

The primary audience for this tutorial workshop consists of (a) biology educators interested in computational resources and methods that can be used to give students exposure and experience that they will need to effectively use computing in their biology careers, and (b) mathematical and computational scientists who are collaborating with biologists or are interested in including biological examples and projects in their courses.

Registration, lodging, and most meals will be paid for by various grants.  Participants are responsible for their own transportation to and from the workshop, for any social activities fees, and for dinner on Wednesday evening.

Applications can be made online at the NCSI application page.  Applications are due by May 16.  Notification will be made by May 23.

Preparing Students for the "New Biology"

A revolution is underway in biology. The major focus of the biological sciences—understanding life—
remains the same, but the science has experienced a major transformation. Many of the most exciting
discoveries in the biological sciences during the second half of the 20th century occurred at the
intersections of established disciplines. Emerging interdisciplinary fields such as genomics, proteomics,
metagenomics, synthetic biology, biochemistry, bioinformatics, computational biology, and systems biology are leading to new discoveries, and some are changing the ways we think about and engage in biological research and explore established biological fields (such as evolutionary biology). These new integrated fields, spread across the diversity of life sciences, are opening up a vast array of practical applications, ranging from new medical approaches, to alternative sources of energy, to new theoretical bases in the behavioral and social sciences.


Breakthrough discoveries at the boundaries of traditional biology disciplines also have changed the nature and the kinds of questions researchers can ask about living systems, while emerging technologies have opened new opportunities for biologists to investigate questions we never thought could be addressed or even asked. Real-time molecular imaging, bioinformatics approaches to generating molecular phylogenies, the sequencing of ancient DNA from extinct mammals, and the use of global information systems (GIS) to aggregate and present data from sensors monitoring the environment are just a few examples of how new technologies have advanced the life sciences. These new areas of research are expanding at breathtaking speed and providing opportunities for investigators to contribute their specific expertise to research questions as they collaborate with people from other disciplines to address complex and increasingly interdisciplinary problems.


To contribute effectively to this “New Biology” (NRC, 2009), scientists need to interact with information in new ways, including being able to manage large, complex data sets. Systems approaches and biological modeling rely on the application of mathematics and statistical analysis, while the explosive generation of larger and larger data sets demands increasingly sophisticated computational knowledge (Brewer and Gross, 2003). Studying biological dynamics requires a greater emphasis on modeling, computation, and data analysis tools than ever before.

Workshop Content and Format

This workshop will focus on four key aspects of computation for biological applications

  1. data storage and retrieval
  2. visualization
  3. data analysis
  4. modeling and simulation

Presenters with experience is using and developing computational tools for biology applications will introduce participants to software and activities that can transform the biology classroom and laboratory.  Specific topics are tailored to the needs, interests and experience of the participants but will likely include some or all of the following:

  • agent based modeling (e.g., NetLogo, AgentSheets)
  • dynamic system simulation (e.g., Vensim, Berkeley Madonna)
  • data analysis and visualization tools for biology (e.g., R, bioconductor)
  • online biological databases (e.g., BLAST, GenBank)
  • protein function and structure (e.g., JMOL)
  • using computational tools to connect to primary literature

Most workshop sessions will take place in a computer laboratory, where participants can immediately put into practice the skills they are learning.  Participants will be encourage to modify or create activities and materials that can be used on their home campuses, and ample time will be provided to work on this in consultation with presenters and other participants.

Wednesday afternoon is set aside as free time for participants.  Optional activities may be arranged as per the wishes of the participants.

Lodging and Local Arrangements

Workshop sessions will take place in computer laboratories in the Science Complex at Calvin College, in Grand Rapids, MI.

Calvin College Science Complex

Lodging will be provided at the Prince Conference Center, located on Calvin's campus, about a 10-minute walk from the Science Complex.

Prince Conference Center Lobby