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Mathematical biology: from individual cell behavior to biological growth and form


Admission requirements

3rd year Bachelor students and 1st year Master’s students in Mathematics, Life Sciences and Technology, Biology, Bioinformatics
Basic background in biology is useful (in particular cell biology or developmental biology) but not required. Some programming skills and familiarity with numerical algorithms and differential equations are useful, but not required.

Contact information

Coordinator: Dhr. R. Merks
Email: Roeland.Merks@cwi.nl


How does the genetic information encoded in the DNA produce the three-dimensional shape and function of multicellular organisms: animals and plants? A key question here is how cells cooperate to create biological structure, and how this biological structure feeds back on gene expression. This course will introduce students to the mathematical and computational biology of multicellular phenomena, covering a range of biological examples, including development of animals and plants, blood vessel growth, bacterial pattern formation and diversification, tumor growth and evolution.

At the end of course students will have an overview of and some hands-on experience with a range of mathematical and computational techniques (PDEs, cellular automata, Cellular Potts model, vertex-based models, etc.) that computational biologist use in the study of collective cell behavior and biological pattern formation. They are familiar with recent literature on multiscale biological modeling and they have some experience with constructing basic computational models and hypotheses of phenomena described in the biological literature.

The course consists of a series of lectures, practical assignments using biological modeling environments. The course is concluded with a report on the practical work and a written exam.


Wednesday afternoons, from September 5th-December 10th. For more information about this course, please look at the website

Mode of instruction

Lectures, paper seminar, practical exercises, mini-projects.

Assessment method

Presentation of paper seminar, performance in practical exercises (50 %), mini-project (50 %).


Contact the course coordinator


For more information about this course, please look at the website