7.91J | Spring 2014 | Graduate

Foundations of Computational and Systems Biology

Instructor Insights

Course Overview

This page focuses on the course 7.91J Foundations of Computational and Systems Biology as it was taught by Profs. Christopher Burge, David Gifford, and Ernest Fraenkel in Spring 2014.

This course is an advanced undergraduate/graduate survey course in computational biology.

  • It is not a systems biology course, but topics important for analyzing complex systems will be presented.
  • It is not a synthetic biology course, but there is a guest lecture by George Church related to synthetic biology.
  • It is not an algorithms course; expertise in designing and analyzing algorithms is not assumed. The essential ideas behind a variety of algorithms will be discussed, but details of implementation are not addressed. Students will have the opportunity to implement at least one bioinformatics algorithm in the homework.

Course Outcomes

Course Goals for Students

  • To develop an understanding of foundational methods in computational biology
  • To enable students to contextualize and understand the basis of a good portion of the research literature in this growing field
  • An additional goal for graduate students: to gain exposure to research in this field

Possibilities for Further Study/Careers

  • Graduate studies in computational biology
  • Careers in biotechnology

Curriculum Information


Students should have a strong background in either molecular biology or computer science. Depending on which course number the student enrolls in, there are different specific requirements.

Requirements Satisfied



Every spring semester.


The different versions of this course have different grading schemes. For example, this was the grading scheme for graduate students in biology, biological engineering, and health sciences & technology:

  • 30% Problem sets
  • 48% Exams
  • 20% Project
  • 2% Project peer review

Student Information


64 students

Breakdown by Year

Juniors, seniors, and graduate students enrolled in this course.

Breakdown by Major

Students from biology, biological engineering, computer science, and health sciences & technology enrolled in this course.

How Student Time Was Spent

During an average week, students were expected to spend 12 hours on the course, roughly divided as follows:


Met two times per week for 1.5 hours per session; 26 sessions total.


Met once a week for 1 hour per session. Optional attendance.

Out of Class

Learning Resource Types
Lecture Videos
Lecture Notes
Programming Assignments with Examples
Presentation Assignments
Written Assignments
Instructor Insights