Systems biology is the application of mathematical modelling to help understand how biological processes function and are controlled. At the University of Aberdeen, research in this new area is being driven by close collaborations between physical scientists and biologists, using mathematical modelling as a lever to facilitate greater insight into the nature of highly complex biological systems.
The interdisciplinary systems biology research teams draw upon expertise of physicists, biologists, computing scientists and engineers from the Institute of Complex Systems and Mathematical Biology (ICSMB), Institute of Medical Sciences (IMS), Institute of Biological and Environmental Sciences (IBES), and the Rowett Institute of Nutrition and Health (RINH; see links on the left). Significant Research Council funding supports this thriving network of collaborating researchers (see 'Projects').
One of the key strengths of the Systems Biology Programme is the breadth of biological research and system scales to which University researchers are applying mathematical modelling, ranging from molecular to population and continental. For example, some groups are using systems biology approaches to probe the regulation of biochemical pathways and cellular networks, while others utilise modelling techniques to understand the roles of environmental flux of carbon and nitrogen in climate change processes.
This diversity of interests provides enhanced opportunities for complementary expertise within systems biology to cross-fertilise. The University is therefore well positioned to apply systems biology to the medical sciences, human physiology and nutrition, and environmental biology, thus linking theoreticians in the Institute of Complex Systems and Mathematical Biology with biologists in the Institute of Medical Sciences, the Rowett Institute of Nutrition and Health and the Institute of Biological and Environmental Sciences.
Our interests in systems biology unite teaching and research, and we offer both Masters and PhD programmes in systems biology. Aberdeen's expertise in systems biology also encompasses synthetic biology, and Aberdeen's entry in the 2009 iGEM (International Genetically Engineered Machines) competition, MIT, Boston, secured a gold medal.
Systems biology research areas
Mathematical modelling is being used in a number of systems biology projects across the Programme, described on our research projects page.