Computational Biology

Computational Biology Infographic

In recent years, the increasing availability of technologies such as next-generation DNA sequencing, high-throughput experimentation, and high-performance computing has led to an explosion in the amount of biological data that are now available. This presents a unique opportunity: scientists believe that the data hold clues that could improve our understanding of how life works at the molecular level, as well as the causes of human disease. This new reality also presents great challenges, as new methods are needed for organizing, integrating, and interpreting this overwhelming amount of information.

In this context, computational biology and bioinformatics have become important disciplines in the modern study of biology. Computational biology is a science that uses advanced methods from mathematics, physics, statistics, and computer science to develop statistical and analytical models capable of predicting biological activity.

At Columbia University, research in computational biology focuses on a number of areas, including:

  • modeling of molecular interaction networks that give rise to physiological and pathological phenotypes
  • prediction of protein structure, function, and localization
  • study of protein-protein and protein-DNA interactions
  • gene expression analysis and prediction of regulatory network structure
  • study of complex inherited traitsBioinformatics is a related field that focuses on the development of the computer technologies for studying biology in this way. Bioinformaticians design algorithms, software, databases, websites, and other tools for analyzing large collections of biological data. This work can also involve activities such as designing methods for integrating multiple data sets, developing standardized biomedical ontologies for organizing data, and creating automated methods for extracting knowledge from scientific literature and medical reports.An important part of research in computational biology and bioinformatics is the validation of computer-predicted models. Researchers in this field typically work closely with experimental scientists who test computational models in the laboratory to confirm that they correspond with the way cells and organisms actually behave.

    Computational Biology Faculty