Box 10.4Competence and Expertise in Computer Science for Biology Students

The BIO2010 report recommended that all biology students receive instruction in computer science, distinguishing among three levels of competency. From lowest to highest, these include the following:

  • Fluency. Based on the NRC report Being Fluent with Information Technology, fluency refers to the ability of biology students to use information technology today and to adapt to changes in IT in the future. For example, they need a basic understanding of how computers work and of programming, and a higher degree of fluency in using networks and databases. Students should also be exposed to laboratory experiences using MEDLINE, GenBank, and other biological databases, as well as physiological and ecological simulations. For example, students could be asked to use computer searches to track down all known information about a given gene and the protein it encodes, including both structure and function. This would involve exploring the internal structure of the gene (exons, introns, promoter, transcription factor binding sites); the regulatory control of the gene; sequence homologues of the gene and the protein; the structure and function of the protein; gene interaction networks and metabolic pathways involving the protein; and interactions of the protein with other proteins and with small molecules.
  • Capability in program design for computational biology and genomics applications. Students at this level acquire the minimal skills required to be effective computer users within a computationally oriented biology research team. For example, they would learn structured software development and selected principles of computer science, with applications in computational biology and allied disciplines, and would use examples and tutorials drawn from problems in computational biology.
  • Capability in developing software tools for use by the biology community. At this sophisticated level, students need a grounding in discrete mathematics, data structures, and algorithms, as well as database management systems, information systems, software engineering, computer graphics, or computer simulation techniques. Students at this level would be able to design and specify database and information systems for use by the entire community. Of special interest will be tools that require background in graph theory, combinatorics, and computational geometry as applications in high-throughput genomics research and rational drug design become increasingly important.

SOURCE: Adapted from National Research Council, BIO2010: Transforming Undergraduate Education for Future Research Biologists, The National Academies Press, Washington, DC, 2003.

From: 10, Culture and Research Infrastructure

Cover of Catalyzing Inquiry at the Interface of Computing and Biology
Catalyzing Inquiry at the Interface of Computing and Biology.
National Research Council (US) Committee on Frontiers at the Interface of Computing and Biology; Wooley JC, Lin HS, editors.
Washington (DC): National Academies Press (US); 2005.
Copyright © 2005, National Academy of Sciences.

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