Biology and chemistry basics for bioinformaticians

If you are like me coming to computational biology from a Computer Science background, chances are the last time you heard about covalent bonds is in high school. It is quite useful to understand the basics of biochemistry when studying molecular biology, even if you are just using computational tools.

Thanks to countless MOOCs and other online resources, as well as giant text books on the subject it is only your own time and effort that can limit you. Here I gather the very essentials you need to know if you are starting out as a computational biologist, with a slight tilt towards studying protein evolution, as this is my thing;)

Hope it helps other aspiring bioinformaticians to better understand the bio- part of their subject and will be a good first steps guide. And in the case of studying proteins, chemistry is for sure is an essential part of your knowledge base.

Step 1. Khan academy crash courses on biology and chemistry.

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These are simply awesome! Presenting science with practical examples, funny attitude and stunning visualizations.

Start with organic chemistry:  https://www.khanacademy.org/partner-content/crash-course1/crash-course-chemistry.

Make sure to pay extra attention to such concepts as entropy, the role of water in chemical reactions, types of chemical bonds and nuclear chemistry.

After you are equipt with the chemistry basics, it is time to be blown away by the multiple levels of biology: https://www.khanacademy.org/partner-content/crash-course1/partner-topic-crash-course-bio-ecology/crash-course-biology.

From molecular building blocks of life to ecology of all the living organisms, I think it’s a great way to dive into life science.

Step 2  From DNA to protein

1000px-DNA_simple2.svgWhat is DNA and how proteins are actually synthesized in the cell.

Both of these courses are great, but I think I prefer the Khan academy style of presenting material and quizzes. EdX feels much more academic, which is not a great thing if you want to keep things interesting 🙂 Although authors did a pretty good job anyway.

  1. https://www.edx.org/course/dna-biologys-genetic-code-ricex-bioc300-2x-0
  2. https://www.khanacademy.org/test-prep/mcat/biomolecules/dna/e/dna-questions

Step 3  Protein structures and function

Protein-structure1. Proteins course on edx  https://www.edx.org/course/proteins-biologys-workforce-ricex-bioc300-1x-

or

2. Introduction to proteins on Khan Academy https://www.khanacademy.org/test-prep/mcat/biomolecules/amino-acids-and-proteins1/e/amino-acids-and-proteins-questions

No real need to do both of them, since there is a lot of overlap in the content. Same authors as in step 2!

Worth mentioning that EdX courses in both step 2 and step 3 have also information on experimental techniques used to study biomolecules, which is useful if you do research. Khan academy is aimed more for the general public.

Good luck and keep on learning 😉

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