Biologyand/or environmental science curriculum designed to aid students in acquiring systems tools to create a sustainable future.
SYSTEMS (HOLISTIC) BIOLOGY
systems biology course is aimed at students in all majors. It will reveal secrets of natures design to art majors; it will explore nature's solutions to problems of information processing and communication for IT majors; Humanities majors will gain tools to capture the essential dynamics of complex problems in systems/holistic narratives; Math majors will see mathematical models brought to life in computer simulations of natural systems; Natural science majors will see the systems biology perspective as a means to integrate natural systems with social-economic systems.
Concepts will be presented by way of narrative, writing, traditional mathematics, computational mathematics, and systems diagramming - a true multi-modal approach. Students may chose their learning modalities of choice. The success of the course will depend upon a diversity of students offering their perspectives, thereby enhancing our learning across disciplines.
More specifically, the course will present traditional biological concepts of cell
function, genetics, evolution, population ecology, ecosystem function, and
others, within a systems or holistic perspective. Students will use systems tools,
including systems diagramming and computer simulations, to aid in the
exploration of biological systems and current environmental problems - climate change, ecosystem collapse, population growth, ebola, and others. Students will learn how to apply analytic,
synthetic, holistic, and/or reductionist approaches where appropriate.
Information theory will be introduced to bring into stark relief the central
role of information processing in life. An
integrative view of the field of biology will emerge in this course, where
disciplinary boundaries, both inside and outside of biology, are
permeable. From this framework, students
will seamlessly cross disciplines to acquire fresh insights, integrating
biology and other disciplines.
INSTRUCTORS: Lecture:Fred Roberts
TEXTBOOKS: Thinking in Systems by Donella H. Meadows
The Insatiable Bark Beetles by Reese Halter
PREREQUISITES: None, all majors wellcome.
"Compared to even the best of human computers the
human cell is an information processor extraordinaire"