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e-Learning for Systems Approaches

Overview of Systems Training in Maths, Informatics and Computational Biology (SysMIC)

BBSRC has sponsored the development (in 2012) and delivery (from 2013 to 2016 inclusive) of SysMIC, a large e-Learning platform to deliver training on-line in mathematical and computing techniques needed to build or interpret models of biological systems on all scales.

SysMIC is composed of a series of 3 modules to be studied part-time over six months each. The modules are of increasing difficulty and deliver specific as well as generic skills relevant to systems approaches to biological research. SysMIC aims to remove a major skills shortage amongst UK bioscience researchers that may restrain innovation or be a barrier to effective work within multidisciplinary teams.

Over 4 years, 1250 places are available free of charge to all members of the BBSRC community at all levels of seniority. SysMIC targets any bioscientist working at graduate level or above but assumes no recent mathematics or computing experience or qualification beyond GCSE or equivalent. There are at least two course starts per year and enrolment is on a "first come, first served" basis. There are currently 150 students on the course.

For enrolment details, please visit the SysMIC website (see external links).

Funding total


No. of projects funded

1 (composed of 3 modules)
Project title: Systems Training in Maths, Informatics and Computational Biology (SysMIC) - a consortium comprising of: UCL, Birckbeck, the OU and the University of Edinburgh over the period of 5 years.

Award detail


To develop web-based courses to provide modular training to bioscience researchers in the theoretical components of systems biology across the UK bioscience community.

Key aims

Courses should be developed that comprise at least 3 modules to enable training to be provided at different levels to researchers:

  • Basic mathematics for systems biology
  • Introductory/basic module in systems biology
  • Intermediate/advanced module in systems biology

On completion of the course it is anticipated that bioscience researchers will have gained an understanding of the following key skills:

  • The ability to develop, and communicate, a rigorous conceptual and graphical model of a chosen biological system including the elements of network analysis
  • An understanding of the different sort of techniques often found in the "modeller's toolbox". What are differential equations, for example, and how can they be solved analytically and numerically
  • How to fit a model to data including the role of statistical analysis in estimating parameters and their variability
  • Some understanding of how models are coded in different programming environments (such as R, Matlab, C++) with some appreciation of which packages/languages are suitable for different problems
  • The concept of database management and an introduction to bioinformatic methods appropriate for systems biology


Natalia Gillies, eLSA scientific enquiries

tel: 01793 414666
fax: 01793 413234

eLSA administrative enquiries