An introductory course in computation molecular biology: rationale, history, observations, and course description.

S. J. Johns, S. M. Thompson, A. K. Dunker

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


A course called "Molecular Biology Computer Techniques" was implemented in 1987 and has been evolving ever since. Currently the semester-long three credit course consists of thirty hours of lecture (three hours/week for the first ten weeks of the semester) and a minimum of 45 hours of laboratory instruction (three hours/week). The lectures survey both bioinformatics and structure based methods. The laboratory has two tracks, one that can be described loosely as "sequence analysis" and the other as "molecular modelling." Most students choose one of the two laboratory tracks, although a small number have done both, either simultaneously or in successive years. For each student, the goal of the course is the completion of a student-initiated research project. The culmination of the course is the presentation of the completed projects at a "Poster Session Final." During this final, which is conducted like a poster session at a typical biological science meeting, students are examined, not only by the instructors in the course, but also by a diverse cross-section of the university community at large, including non-scientists (who are specially invited to attend). Questioning by non-scientists provides opportunity for the students to improve their communication skills with the lay public. In this manuscript we discuss our views regarding the rationale for the development of formal courses in computational molecular biology, relate our experiences in the development of our course, and describe the course as it stood the last time it was taught, which was in the Fall of 1994.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)396-407
Number of pages12
JournalPacific Symposium on Biocomputing. Pacific Symposium on Biocomputing
StatePublished - 1996
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biomedical Engineering
  • Computational Theory and Mathematics

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