This proposal aims to establish a National Short Course in Systems Biology that integrates mathematical, statistical and computational approaches to describe biological systems and understand their complex behaviors. The Center for Complex Biological Systems (CCBS) at UC Irvine is ideally suited to host this annual course being one of ten NIH National Centers for Systems Biology. The CCBS is able to leverage substantial faculty educational and research expertise - from a pool of more than 100 active faculty from 18 participating science departments, as well as contributions from preeminent resource facilities such as the Laboratory of Fluorescence Dynamics (LFD) and the Institute for Genomics and Bioinformatics - to create a top-rated training course designed for senior graduate students, postdoctoral researchers, faculty and industry scientists from diverse scientific disciplines who have nascent interests in engaging in Systems Biology research. The course theme will focus on the systems biology of spatial dynamics that impacts key cellular processes including signal transduction networks, cell differentiation, and developmental mechanisms of morphogenesis and patterning. Moreover, experience gained in these systems will enable trainees to apply these skills more generally to other complex systems with spatially dynamic properties. Recruitment and training of research scientists in this thematic area is currently underserved but demand is expected to be significant given the central importance of these processes to many human health related issues, including developmental abnormalities, age-related disease processes, initiation and progression of cancer and infectious disease models that are amenable to systems-oriented analysis and dependent on spatio-temporal factors. The course format will combine didactic lectures with hands-on practical laboratories featuring both biological experimentation and mathematical/computational modeling tutorials. The course design is organized into two principal sections: an optional 1-week Introductory Preparatory Workshop (either in Biology or Mathematical/ Computational Methods) will address individual trainee educational weaknesses by providing essential cross-disciplinary foundational instruction. The second part consists of a 2-week Systems Biology Core Course offering a high-level introduction to spatially dynamic research topics and advanced analytical biometric tools (e.g. advanced correlation spectroscopy and pipeline queries to bioinformatic databases) through project oriented instruction and small group interactions. This unique approach of addressing specific trainee educational deficiencies first, then building strong interdisciplinary collaborative work groups, will enhance course recruitment and entry into this field to research scientists who frequently feel interested but intimidated due to a perceived lack of prior formal training. Beyond providing an intensive on-site training course, all lecture materials (video recorded), training datasets, and software tools will be made freely available through on-line distribution to maximize our outreach efforts.
Funding from this grant will establish an open-access annual course at the University of California Irvine for training scientists with interests in learning System Biology. Systems Biologists combine classical disciplines from biology with mathematical and computational approaches to study complex and dynamic problems in a variety of health related areas, including human development, cancer and infectious disease transmission.