Friday, January 3, 2014

Simple Science: Formal Models in System Biology

This is a post in our Simple Science Descriptions series of pieces written with the Up-Goer Five Text Editor restricting writers to the ten hundred most used words in English. It's harder than you might think! Send your entries (preferably under 350 words) to jeanyang [at] mit [dot] edu.


Life is hard to understand. Animals and other living things are made of parts which all start the same, but become different as they grow. They do this by sending signs to one another. The order in which these signs are felt changes their meaning and can change how the parts grow. When the signs break down, the parts don't grow right, and this can make people sick.
We are getting better at finding the signs, but understanding what happens when different signs arrive at the same time, and fight is still hard. I use computers to build an understanding of these relationships in growing animals. The computer allows us to study "what-if" questions, check with what we already know, and gives us new ideas. Sometimes they also need us to find new ways to use the computer to ask these questions.  By doing my work I hope  we can better fight the things which make us all sick and better understand life.

- Dr. Ben Hall, Microsoft Research

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