puter program, with all the associated options such as assignments, if-then loops, and while-loops.
Many of the concepts above deal with types of analysis and modeling that require knowledge of computer programming. However, there is another aspect of computing that is important for the future research biologist: the use of computers as tools. Computer use is a fact of life for all modern life scientists. Exposure during the early years of their undergraduate careers will help life science students use current computer methods and learn how to exploit emerging computer technologies as they arise. As computer power continues to grow rapidly, applications that were available only on supercomputers a few years ago can now be used on relatively inexpensive personal computers. Computers are essential today for obtaining information from databases (e.g., genetic data from Genbank), establishing relationships (e.g., using the BLAST algorithm to quantitate the similarity of a given DNA or protein sequence to all known sequences), deducing patterns (e.g., clustering genes that are regulated in concert), carrying out statistical tests, preparing plots and other graphics for presentation, and writing manuscripts for publication. Furthermore, computers are playing a central role in the laboratory in controlling equipment, obtaining data from measuring devices, and carrying out real-time analysis (e.g., image acquisition in confocal fluorescence microscopy). Research biologists are increasingly acquiring and analyzing vast amounts of data (e.g., the degree of expression of tens of thousands of genes in multiple cellular states). They will need to be conversant with new theoretical and modeling approaches to come to grips with the interplay of many simultaneously interacting components of complex systems.
Many analyses of biological data can be accomplished with existing programs (e.g., BLAST). However, being able to modify or construct applications is necessary in many research areas. Learning how a computer application is developed provides students with insight into the software they use. Computer understanding can be taught by providing experiences in computer programming, teaching about computer algorithms, and how to construct simple simulations. This familiarity could be accomplished by exposing students to programming in higher-level languages such as Matlab, Perl, or C.
The Internet is increasingly becoming the primary source of information for life scientists. Databases in a variety of areas (e.g., genomics, global