NSF-Sponsored Workshops

Finding your inner modeler: an NSF-sponsored workshop to introduce cell biologists to modeling/computational approaches

In classical Cell Biology, fundamental cellular processes are revealed empirically, one experiment at a time. While this approach has been enormously fruitful, our understanding of cells is far from complete. In fact, the more we know, the more keenly we perceive our ignorance of the profoundly complex and dynamic molecular systems that underlie cell structure and function. Thus, it has become apparent to many cell biologists that experimentation alone is unlikely to yield major new paradigms, and that empiricism must be combined with theory and computational approaches to yield major new discoveries. To facilitate those discoveries, two workshops will convene annually for one day in three successive summers (2017-2018) to promote the use of computational modeling by cell biologists currently unconvinced of its utility or unsure how to apply it. The first of these workshops was held at the University of Illinois, Chicago in July 2017. Organized to facilitate interactions between traditional cell biologists and computational modelers, it provided a unique educational opportunity: a primer on how cell biologists with little or no relevant experience can incorporate computational modeling into their research. Here, we report on the workshop and describe how it addressed key issues that cell biologists face when considering modeling including: (1) Is my project appropriate for modeling? (2) What kind of data do I need to model my process? (3) How do I find a modeler to help me in integrating modeling approaches into my work? And, perhaps most importantly, (4) why should I bother?

Read a summary of the first year Workshop here.