636-0017-00L  Computational Biology

Semester Autumn Semester 2017
Lecturers C. Magnus, T. Stadler, to be announced
Periodicity yearly course
Language of instruction English

Abstract The aim of the course is to provide up-to-date knowledge on how we can study biological processes using genetic sequencing data. Computational algorithms extracting biological information from genetic sequence data are discussed, and statistical tools to understand this information in detail are introduced.
Objective Attendees will learn which information is contained in genetic sequencing data and how to extract information from this data using computational tools. The main concepts introduced are:
* stochastic models in molecular evolution
* phylogenetic & phylodynamic inference
* maximum likelihood and Bayesian statistics
Attendees will apply these concepts to a number of applications yielding biological insight into:
* epidemiology
* pathogen evolution
* macroevolution of species
Content The course consists of four parts. We first introduce modern genetic sequencing technology, and algorithms to obtain sequence alignments from the output of the sequencers. We then present methods for direct alignment analysis using approaches such as BLAST and GWAS. Second, we introduce mechanisms and concepts of molecular evolution, i.e. we discuss how genetic sequences change over time. Third, we employ evolutionary concepts to infer ancestral relationships between organisms based on their genetic sequences, i.e. we discuss methods to infer genealogies and phylogenies. Lastly, we introduce the field of phylodynamics. The aim of phylodynamics is to understand and quantify the population dynamic processes (such as transmission in epidemiology or speciation & extinction in macroevolution) based on a phylogeny. Throughout the class, the models and methods are illustrated on different datasets giving insight into the epidemiology and evolution of a range of infectious diseases (e.g. HIV, HCV, influenza, Ebola). Applications of the methods to the field of macroevolution provide insight into the evolution and ecology of different species clades. Students will be trained in the algorithms and their application both on paper and in silico as part of the exercises.
Lecture notes Lecture slides will be available on moodle.
Literature The course is not based on any of the textbooks below, but they are excellent choices as accompanying material:
* Yang, Z. 2006. Computational Molecular Evolution.
* Felsenstein, J. 2004. Inferring Phylogenies.
* Semple, C. & Steel, M. 2003. Phylogenetics.
* Drummond, A. & Bouckaert, R. 2015. Bayesian evolutionary analysis with BEAST.
Prerequisites / Notice Basic knowledge in linear algebra, analysis, and statistics will be helpful. Programming in R will be required for the "Central Element". We provide an R tutorial and help sessions during the first two weeks of class to learn the required skills.