The current century has been termed the century of biology, and the major advances of this century will only be possible via computational systems biology. Mathematics, computation, and modeling has been an essential part of biology since its origins, whether it was Galileo or DaVinci devising scaling laws for bones and tree branches; or Mendel discovering simple rules of how genes are inherited; or the formalization of evolutionary theory; or the revelation of internal, three-dimensional medical images from computed tomography (CT) and magnetic resonance (MRI); or the Human Genome Project. However, the importance of math and computing for biology has never been as pressing as now. Many medical, molecular, genomics, and ecological challenges facing us today will only be solved by combining the modeling of basic and biological processes with computational methods for discerning patterns in big data. These include large-scale, monumental projects to understand the wiring, learning, and illnesses of the brain; to identify genetic influences on disease; to develop better drugs for treating disease; and to mitigate effects of climate change on biological systems. Indeed, it has been said that “mathematics is biology’s next microscope, only better,” meaning that it allows us to see much of the “invisible” parts of the world, opens completely new horizons to explore, shifts our entire perspective on problems, and makes the impossible become possible.
Our program is designed to train and enable a new generation of computational systems biologists to make diverse contributions through industry, academia, non-profit organizations, and government agencies in ways that help to teach, understand, and solve pressing problems like the ones listed above. At UCLA we can both build on our long history of research and education in these areas (parts of the CaSB program date back several decades) and embrace a vibrant and growing community of faculty and institutes in these areas. Indeed, our program dates back more than three decades and, until recently, was led with great vision and passion by Joe DiStefano. As you tour the Faculty pages, you can see the large number of outstanding faculty involved in our program and the range of topics we now include. The strength and pervasiveness of these efforts at UCLA is a testament to the long, sustained efforts at UCLA and its fruition and acceleration as we move forward. We hope you will join us!
Professor Van Savage,