What is computational biology?
Computational biology involves the creation and application of mathematical algorithms and models to understand and simulate biological systems, allowing researchers to process and understand massive quantities of data. Computational biologists focusing on cancer develop methods for understanding how the genome, or the complete set of genetic material present in a cell, is altered in tumours and how these cancer-specific alterations of the genetic code affects the properties of cells within tumours. These biologists also develop methods to analyze the genes and clinical characteristics of patients and compare these to drug mechanisms and the responses of the patients to these drugs to analyze the effectiveness of current treatments and guide the development of new ones.
What does a computational biologist do? What does it take to be a computational biologist?
Computational biology is usually performed by individuals who have a master’s degree in the field or in a related field such as computer science, statistics, or genomics. They are able to develop new algorithms, interpret data, and construct predictive models.
Where is the field of computational biology heading?
Methods and tools in computational biology have been used to analyze large-scale changes in chromosomes and their effects on protein expression and cell behaviour. New “high-throughput” technologies have the capacity to examine thousands of molecules simultaneously, and can therefore generate massive amounts of data about genes and proteins in tumours; however, this data needs to be processed and analyzed in order to obtain meaningful knowledge. As these technologies become more and more sophisticated, so must the methods of analyzing the vast amount of data that is produced. This in-depth data analysis can lead to more specific cancer treatments with less adverse effects on patients, and can assist in the realization of personalized medicine.