Bioinformatics and Computational Biology (BCB)
The interdisciplinary research field bioinformatics comprises versatile branches of science like mathematics, computer science, and various natural sciences. This phenomenon is also reflected in the composition of the „Bioinformatics and Computational Biology“ research group. The groups of Professor Ivo L. Hofacker and Professor Arndt von Haeseler is therefore made up of researchers from computer science, biology, chemistry, physics, mathematics and statistics.
Research interests of both groups are:
Sequence evolution and phylogeny reconstruction analyzes biological sequence data in order to reconstruct the relationship between today's diverse species . An important question is: „Which mechanisms shape the sequence variation we observe?“ This entails e.g. the development of new models that capture the process of sequence evolution under various constraints. Efficient algorithms that implement appropriate models are an essential step to address the above question.
RNA bioinformatics comprises the analysis of diverse properties of RNA molecules. For a long time RNA was only seen as an information carrier to synthesize proteins from their DNA template. In recent years, however, non-coding RNAs have moved into the focus of research. A zoo of diverse functional RNA molecules has been identified that regulate processes such as transcription, translation, mRNA processing and modification, as well as the translocation of molecules in the cell. The development of algorithms to detect RNA genes, the prediction of their structure on different abstraction levels, as well as the detailed characterization of these molecules forms an essential topic in our research group.
Population genetics is an area of research dealing with the evolution of populations of individuals from a single species in a particular habitat. An important part is the analysis of gene and genotype frequencies under the influence of processes such as natural selection, genetic drift, mutation, and migration. The research group develops and tests novel methods to trace back the demographic history of populations.
Synthetic biology comprises two basic approaches. The first tries to manipulate existing biological systems in order to achieve desired properties. One might, for example, modulate a metabolic pathway, such that a desired enzyme or metabolite is produced in higher quantity. The second approach deals with the design of biological building blocks and systems that don't occur in nature. Thus, synthetic biology uses a constructive approach to problems that cannot be solved through observation and analysis, or through our current understanding of naturally occurring systems.
In addition to the research areas above, new experimental methods, such as high throughput sequencing, require the development of innovative algorithms for efficient data analysis. This bridging between lab bench and computer science has been a hallmark of the research group „Bioinformatics and Computational Biology“ in the past years. Strong international cooperations foster research-oriented teaching that includes classical as well as recently published bioinformatical methods and algorithms.