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ONC0251D Modeling and quantitative approaches to life science


Modeling and quantitative approaches to life science


Academic year 2023/2024

Course ID
Alberto Puliafito (Lecturer)
1st year
Teaching period
First semester
Course disciplinary sector (SSD)
BIO/10 - biochemistry
Formal authority
Type of examination
Written and oral
Type of learning unit
Modular course
Biochemistry, cellular and molecular biology (ONC0251)

Sommario del corso


Course objectives

The module aims at developing quantitative modeling approaches to a subset of topics faced in the other modules of the course. The student is presented with a minimal set of mathematical models that can be used in explainable learning to gain knowledge into how biological systems work, from molecules to cell growth and organ/tumor development. The overall objective of the module is to introduce mathematical models and reasoning that can be exploited to extract information from data.


Results of learning outcomes

By the end of the module the student will have learned a small set of modeling tools and approaches that are propedeutic for the second year and that pave the way to extract information from data.



- Brief introduction to numbers in biology: rates, durations, space scales

- Experimental techniques and modeling in PCR, branching processes in molecular biology

- Modeling the central dogma of molecular biology

- Cytoskeletal/molecular motors and the generation of forces in cells

- Rate equations: enzyme kinetics and ligand-receptor signaling and trafficking

- How do cells sense the environments and take decisions: models of chemotaxis in bacteria and eukaryotic cells, with applications to cellular immunotherapy

- Cellular growth dynamics and regulation: continuous (Malthus, logistic and Gompertz) and stochastic models


Course delivery

The course is structured into independent face to face lectures, with exercises in class and small group projects.


Learning assessment methods

The exam is structured into two separate sections A and B. Particular attention will be devoted to integrate the different learning abilities, including knowledge and understanding, ability to apply knowledge and understanding and communication skills. 

  1. Each module will end with a multiple choice question quiz in order for the student to evaluate her/his level of knowledge and understanding of the specific topics covered in the module. A weighted average (according to the fraction of CFU of each module) of the marks obtained in the final quiz of each module will account for a maximum total of 16 points. Should one or more modules be insufficient, the student will have to retake the module quiz or quizzes at the exam session.
  2. At the exam sessions students will have to present a written report (min 2 pages, max 3 pages) done by small groups (min 3 max 5 students) on a subject that can be selected among different topics proposed by the teachers of the course, in order to evaluate their ability to apply knowledge and understanding to a partially new context. Each group will be given a 20 min slot to present their work with a keynote presentation, where each member of the group will have to present a part of the work. The presentation will be followed by questions and discussion with the teachers and will account for maximum other 16 points.

Suggested readings and bibliography

Last update: 25/07/2023 09:00
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