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Algebraic Modeling in Life Sciences Has Its Proponents

August 18, 2009

Virginia Tech’s Reinhard Laubenbacher and Sweet Briar College’s Raina Robeva are big fans of algebraic modeling.

They note that because researchers and scientists often lack enough information to build quantitative models, algebraic models can fill temporary knowledge gaps. The advantage, they say, is that when more becomes known, the math behind algebraic models can be used to construct kinetic models. Another plus is that algebraic models are more intuitive than differential-equation models, which makes them more accessible to life scientists.

Discrete-time algebraic models, created from finite-state variables such as Boolean networks, are now used to model a variety of biochemical networks, including metabolic, gene regulatory, and signal transduction networks, according to the duo.

"The exciting thing about algebraic models from an educational perspective is that they highlight aspects of modern-day biology and can easily fit in both the biology and mathematics curricula," observed Robeva. They offer a quick way for introducing biology students to constructing and using mathematical models in the context of contemporary problems, she said. "As educators, we should actively be looking for the best ways to seize this opportunity for advancing mathematical biology."

The researchers' article, "Mathematical Biology Education: Beyond Calculus," appeared in Science.

Source:, August 3

Start Date: 
Tuesday, August 18, 2009