SSB-50806 Introduction to Systems and Synthetic Biology


Studiepunten 6.00

Practical extensively supervised
Problem-based learning
Course coordinator(s)prof. dr. VAP Martins dos Santos (
Lecturer(s)prof. dr. VAP Martins dos Santos
dr. ir. DE Martens
prof. dr. J Molenaar
and Guest lecturers
Examiner(s)prof. dr. VAP Martins dos Santos
dr. ir. DE Martens
prof. dr. J Molenaar

Language of instruction:


Assumed knowledge on:

Basic knowledge in biological sciences


Systems Biology studies how higher-level properties emerge from the complex interactions among the individual components of biological systems. The representation of biological interactions in terms of networks plays a central role in understanding how cells, organisms and ecosytems behave. Examples thereof are metabolic and signaling processes in cells and (micro-)organisms, (immune) cellular networks, genetic circuits underlying disease or industrial biocatalysis, prey-predator systems, marine and soil ecological networks, crop ecosystems, and many other. Through the reconstruction and analysis of networks and their properties, this course will introduce the basic principles and concepts in the realm of Systems Biology, with emphasis on its integrated perspective of biology (i.e. that the whole is more than the sum of the parts) and on the intertwining between modeling and experimentation. Two main groups of network methods will be introduced, and their role in Systems and Synthetic Biology illustrated for various levels of aggregation, ranging from from genes in chromosomes to species in ecosystems. This will be exercised in assignments. Basic principles of circuit construction and analysis for cellular re-programming through Synthetic Biology will be addressed.
Furthermore, the student will learn the basics of how to reconstruct network from high-throughput ('omics') data. These reconstructions allow to pin-point the connectivities and, in some cases, causalities between components in the network system under study. The reconstruction of a few representative small networks is exercised.

Learning outcomes:

At the end of the course the student should be able to:
- distinguish between the different types of networks;
- recognize the different types of networks underlying a wide range of systems (from gene to ecosystem);
- construct a basic model with each of the types of networks exemplified;
- understand the properties of the components of a network ;
- analyze network behavior under various conditions;
- to synthesize network information and use adequate bottom-up vs top-down approaches with respect to biological questions.


Lectures, practical assignments, and study of relevant literature.


Assessment of practical assignments, presentation and report.


Literature and exercises, as well as link to the iGEM competition are available at

Verplicht voor: WUSYBBSc Minor Systems Biology1AF