By Bill Kisliuk

Distilling nearly 50 years of instruction in dynamic biosystems engineering and computational systems biology, Joseph DiStefano III, a distinguished professor of computer science at the UCLA Henry Samueli School of Engineering and Applied Science and the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA, has authored a new textbook, “Dynamic Systems Biology Modeling and Simulation” (Academic Press/Elsevier).

The text, designed to cover a year of coursework, consolidates classical and contemporary methodologies for mathematical modeling and computer simulation of biological systems – from molecular and cellular systems to organ systems and on up to population and disease modeling. The level of the material is basic-to-advanced, with an emphasis on data-driven modeling, i.e. modeling from real biodata.

“My goal was to put together an integrated book, communicating well to students in a range of disciplines – mathematics, statistics, engineering, biology and other life sciences,” DiStefano said. “Biologists are becoming much more cognizant of the fact that they have to learn computational and quantitative methodologies –  namely more math and modeling. And engineers and mathematicians aren’t necessarily familiar with  biology – the terminology or the concepts. A major obstacle when learning an interdisciplinary field is getting past the jargon. So finding a common language is something I emphasize in my teaching and in this book.”

The text offers introductory coverage of core mathematical concepts such as linear and nonlinear differential and difference equations, Laplace transforms, linear algebra, probability, statistics and stochastics. To enhance understanding of how modeling is applied in the life sciences, the book also covers the pertinent concepts in biology, biochemistry, biophysics and pharmacology, as well as practical information on bioexperiment design and optimization.

DiStefano, MS ’64, PhD ’66, joined the UCLA Engineering faculty in 1966 and the faculty in Medicine in 1970. He is chair of the Computational and Systems Biology Interdepartmental Program at UCLA.  Much of his research has focused on quantitative understanding of thyroid hormone production and metabolism in mammals and fishes. A winner of the UCLA Distinguished Teaching Award (2003), and the Lockheed-Martin Award for Teaching Excellence at UCLA Engineering (2004), DiStefano is also the first author of two editions of “Feedback and Control Systems,”  published in 1967 and 1990. He is currently is at work on a third edition.