Computational and Systems Biology

Professor Martin Howard is the Head of Computation and Systems Biology.

We use cutting-edge theoretical methods to study a wide variety of biological systems in plants, microbes and beyond.

Using mathematical models, which are simulated on computers or solved analytically, we make experimentally-testable predictions than can greatly accelerate our understanding of sophisticated biological systems. We have a variety of theoretical backgrounds ranging from theoretical physics to applied mathematics to bioinformatics and computer science, giving us a diverse theoretical toolbox with which to tackle complex biology.

At the heart of our research is the issue of biological information transfer and processing, we aim to answer questions such as;

  • How are morphogen gradients formed and their information decoded?
  • Should biological information be stored and processed digitally or in an analogue fashion?
  • How can biological information be encoded in an oscillatory process?

Key research topics in which these questions are addressed include;

  • Work on epigenetic dynamics (in collaboration with Professor Caroline Dean’s group), focused on developing simple models of stable epigenetic memory capable of properly regulating flowering time
  • The dynamics of auxin gradients in plant roots, and associated issues of cell polarity (in collaboration with Professor Enrico Coen’s group).

A central feature of this department is close collaboration with experimental groups, both at the John Innes Centre and internationally.

The department of Computational and Systems Biology also runs a programme of seminars for scientists on the Norwich Research Park.