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Life Sciences Modeling Committee

There is an increasing need for predictive quantitative methods within the life sciences. A seven-member committee is currently studying the question of whether or not the University should develop a central, integrated approach to strengthening itself in this emerging area. The committee members are Profs. Peter Cummings (co-chair), Daniel Masys (co-chair), Walter Chazin, Vito Quaranta, Glenn Webb, Thomas Weiler, and John Wikswo. Detailed information can be found at this URL: The committee reports jointly to Associate Vice Chancellor Jeffrey Balser and Associate Provost Dennis Hall.

Brief, General Description: The understanding of complex biological systems has become an increasingly important area of scientific inquiry as new technologies have been developed for measuring and representing the structure and function of living things. The focus of late 20th Century science on identifying and characterizing individual biological components (e.g., genes, proteins) has formed a foundation for a 21st Century science that focuses on the interactions and control mechanisms of living systems. High throughput experimental methods such as genomics and proteomics are providing a growing wealth of data that is currently poorly understood, but serves as the basis for observing thousands or millions of molecular components of a living system simultaneously. They are the harbingers of new forms of instrumentation and measurement based on nanotechnologies and specialized sensors that will create a data rich environment for life sciences research, at levels ranging from atomic resolution to intact organisms.

The agile ability to create and test verifiable predictive models of how molecules, tissues, organ systems, and complete organisms work and interact depends upon interdisciplinary science that will draw upon principles and techniques in mathematics, chemistry, engineering, physics, imaging, information science and computer science, and other related disciplines. However, the faculty skills that are needed, and the best overall approaches to fostering interdisciplinary life science modeling are open questions. For this reason, Vanderbilt has brought together faculty representatives from relevant disciplines to consider how the institution can best make progress in this area.