MEDFL5270 – Quantitative biology, or mathematics is biology’s next microscope

Schedule, syllabus and examination date

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Course content

This course is intended to train the students in interacting with researchers across speciality boarders. In particular, the focus is on the use of mathematics to solve various biological problems. The course is based on critical reading of four selected papers, presentation of key issues related to these papers, followed by discussions in smaller group on the content of the papers.

Systems biology is an emerging field, which heavily depends upon collaboration between biologists and mathematicians. The genome has offered biologists new possibilities to study genetic processes on a genomic scale, and to achieve not only understanding of the function of individual molecules but also to achieve quantitative understanding of the regulation and interaction of genes and molecules at the systems level. This development requires researchers with combined biological, mathematical and computational skills. However, few research students have such combined skills as yet.

Learning outcome

The present course intended for students in biology, physics, informatics and medicine, will take as starting point recent high quality papers, where quantitative biology point to novel biological mechanisms. These papers will be used to allow participants to communicate in languages different from their own. The course intends to give examples on the use of mathematics in quantitative biology. Topics that will be presented includes: Probabilities, Networks, Stochastic processes and Computational modeling. The course will include lectures followed by close reading and discussions in smaller groups of original high quality papers in various areas of biology and medicine. At the end of the course, the participants shall have become acquainted with some essential ideas in mathematics and biology, and they shall have trained in communicating in languages and disciplines other than their own.


The course is restricted to students at the Medical Student Research Programme at the Faculty of Medicine and the Faculty of Dentistry, UiO.

Students can apply in StudentWeb from 1. December

The courses MEDFL5270 and IMB9270 have common admission.


Recommended previous knowledge

Bachelor level in biology, physics, informatics or medicine.


The present course intends to invite research students in biology, medicine, physics and informatics to meet and discuss some selected topics relevant to quantitative biology. The course will consist of four sections, each of a half day, dealing with a specific theme. Introductions to biological and mathematical aspects of the theme will be given as lectures. The specific theme will then be illustrated by a recent high quality original paper, which will form the basis for discussions in smaller group of maximum 8 students. The lecturers at the course will serve as group leaders. Their role will be mainly facilitating the discussion. The participants will have to read the papers before the course. When registering for the course, the participants should provide their e-mail addresses, as well as information about their main field of expertise. The course administration will put together groups consisting of participants with as varied background as possible. The last 30 minutes of each session is concluded in plenum, where one person from each discussion group gives a short summary of the discussion in the group, allowing for comments from participants from other groups.

You have to participate in at least 80 % of the teaching to be allowed to take the exam. Attendance will be registered.


There will be a course exam at the end of the course, which will take immediately after the course has ended, and at the school. The exam covers all major themes covered by the course, and is intended to take 30 minutes to complete. Examination language is English.

Grading scale

Grades are awarded on a pass/fail scale. Read more about the grading system.

Explanations and appeals

Resit an examination

Withdrawal from an examination

It is possible to take the exam up to 3 times. If you withdraw from the exam after the deadline or during the exam, this will be counted as an examination attempt.


The course is subject to continuous evaluation. At regular intervals we also ask students to participate in a more comprehensive evaluation.

Facts about this course






Spring and autumn

Spring 2020:

19 th and 20 th of october



Spring and autumn

Teaching language