What every biologist should know about computer science

Benny Chor*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contributionpeer-review


We join the increasing call to take computational education of life science students a step further, beyond teaching mere programming and employing existing software tools.We describe a new course, focusing on enriching life science students with abstract, algorithmic and logical thinking, and exposing them to the computational culture. The design, structure and content of our course are influenced by recent efforts in this area, collaborations with life scientists, and our own instructional experience. Specifically, we suggest that an effective course of this nature should: (1) devote time to explicitly reflect upon computational thinking processes, resisting the temptation to drift to purely practical instruction, (2) focus on discrete notions, rather than on continuous ones, and (3) have basic programming as a prerequisite, so students need not be preoccupied with elementary programming issues.We strongly recommend that the mere use of existing bioinformatics tools and packages should not replace hands-on programming. Yet, we suggest that programming will mostly serve as a means to practice computational thinking processes. This talk deals with the challenges and considerations of such computational education for life science students. It also describes a concrete implementation of the course, and encourages its use by others.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationBioinformatics Research and Applications - 11th International Symposium, ISBRA 2015, Proceedings
EditorsRobert Harrison, Yaohang Li, Ion Măndoiu
PublisherSpringer Verlag
ISBN (Print)9783319190471
StatePublished - 2015
Event11th International Symposium on Bioinformatics Research and Applications, ISBRA 2015 - Norfolk, United States
Duration: 7 Jun 201510 Jun 2015

Publication series

NameLecture Notes in Computer Science (including subseries Lecture Notes in Artificial Intelligence and Lecture Notes in Bioinformatics)
ISSN (Print)0302-9743
ISSN (Electronic)1611-3349


Conference11th International Symposium on Bioinformatics Research and Applications, ISBRA 2015
Country/TerritoryUnited States


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