Author: James R. Valcourt
Summary: I enjoyed hearing about the fascinating success stories and future directions of this exciting new field.
Systems biology is a newly formed and rapidly evolving field, filled with exciting new research made possible by the computing power available today. Many scientists still do valuable research exploring very small, specific parts of biology. Now systems biologists are beginning to look at how all of this previously studies pieces connect. By taking into account the bigger picture, systems biology has enabled the design of “cancer drugs personalized to an individual’s genetically unique tumor, insights into how the brain works, and the discovery that the bacteria and other microbes that live in the gut may drive malnutrition and obesity.” (source) And that’s just the beginning.
Even though I’d heard many of the biology stories related here before, I enjoyed hearing about them again from a systems biology perspective. I also learned about novel discoveries that I think even someone who’s not a science nerd like me would find pretty inspiring. There are truly so many exciting breakthroughs happening right now! I was impressed by how up-to-date this review was. I think it’s incredible that the author made time to write this as a grad student and I love that such an up-to-date review was written for a general audience.
In terms of how accessible it was, I have mixed feelings. The author included many great analogies and images to make explanations more clear. He also did a great job of sharing his own enthusiasm for the field. Unlike in Furry Logic, I thought he included pop culture references and humor naturally. It felt personable, not forced. However, he made some tough decisions about how much background and how much detail to include in each story. While I think he did a fantastic job preserving accuracy, I worry that a reader who didn’t already know a minimal amount of molecular biology might get sidetracked by the details he doesn’t explain. I do think having a read a pop science book or two on the topic before would easily be enough to get someone up to speed though. I’m also not sure I’m right about this being a problem, so I’d love to hear what you think if you pick this up!
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