Creativity at the Interface

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Science  13 Apr 2012:
Vol. 336, Issue 6078, pp. 131
DOI: 10.1126/science.1223013


The biochemistry that makes life possible is based on a complex network of many thousands of interactions between molecules, and it presents an enormous challenge to the scientists trying to understand it. This special issue of Science, with its focus on computational biology, demonstrates how mathematics and computer science are being successfully harnessed to tease apart this complexity (see p. 171). But we are only at the very beginning of the process, and it is certain that reaching a true understanding of cells and organisms will require many more contributions from mathematicians, computer scientists, engineers, physicists, and chemists to complement the efforts of biologists. For this reason, graduate schools have become increasingly enthusiastic about recruiting outstanding students with strong backgrounds in these fields to address challenging problems in the biological and biomedical sciences. This is an important trend, except that too often faculty mistakenly assume that learning biology is easy, leaving these very talented young people nearly on their own to acquire the biological wisdom that they will need to explore the many mysteries in living systems. In fact, it is not at all easy to acquire the type of deep understanding of biology that is required to make wise decisions about what is, and what is not, an important problem to investigate; and a successful career in research will require much more than just a union of different expertise and tools.

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