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General information about SysMIC

What is SysMIC?

SysMIC is a web-based course available across the UK bioscience research community. It provides modular training in the theoretical and computational components of systems biology.

How is SysMIC funded?

The BBSRC has funded the development of SysMIC and provided for 1250 places on the course.

Who is SysMIC?

SysMIC has been produced as collaboration between University College London, the Open University, Birkbeck College and the University of Edinburgh.

Why should I participate in the course?

It’s useful and it’s free!

  • you will become literate in the methods and languages of systems biology
  • it will improve skills and employability in an area which has been made a focus for BBSRC research
  • you will be more able to communicate and collaborate with computer scientists, mathematicians and engineers interested in solving complex biological problems.
  • it is an opportunity to join the SysMIC network.

We hope will this will be a vibrant and friendly community in which participants help each other by sharing individual expertise and develop new skills.

About the SysMIC course

What is the structure of the course?

There are three modules in the SysMIC course;

  • basic skills for systems biology

  • intermediate skills for systems biology

  • advanced skills development through project  work

Each module is taught part-time over 6 months with a workload of approximately  5 hours per week depending on your skills and level of familiarity with the course  content.
Further details of the module content can be found at

How long does the course last?

The course comprises of three modules, each taking approximately 6 months to complete.

Do I need to sign up to all the modules at once?

No, we accept sign ups to the course on a module-by-module basis, dependent on your existing skills and needs.

When do the courses start?

The start date is October 2013.
Further start dates will be published in due course (We plan to have three start dates a year with the last cohort on Module 1 starting in October 2015).

What will I get at the end of the course?

At the end of each module we will issue you a certificate that details your achievements on the course. In the future we hope to provide the option of more formal accreditation.

Information for participants

What is the timetable for the course?

The first module will be taught over 6 months. Reading assignments and tasks will be set with fortnightly deadlines, with an estimated workload of up to 5 hours per week depending on your current level of expertise.

Can I work through the module at my own pace?

We strongly recommend that every participant tries to meet the fortnightly deadlines and moves at the same pace. This will mean that we can provide a better level of support:

  • tutors can provide focused and in depth help on the current topic
  • discussions in forums can be participated in by everyone, and be based on the current work

We will monitor the progress of the whole cohort and try to maintain an optimum pace.

Can I select to study only the individual parts of the module that interest me?

We strongly encourage all participants to work through the full module. The focus of SysMIC is improving interdisciplinary skills and encouraging researchers to develop new ways of working. We hope all the skills taught will prove useful, even if they do not play an immediate role in your current research.

What if I miss the deadlines?

Unless noted otherwise the fortnightly deadlines are set for your own guidance. SysMIC is provided as a self-study course so it is your responsibility to manage your learning. However please note:

  • if you signed up for SysMIC independently you are free to work at your own pace, but be aware that tutors will focus on providing assistance around the current topic.

  • if you signed up to SysMIC as part of a PhD programme your university will be allowed to monitor your engagement and may set its own requirements on your progress through the course.

How can I get help?

There are SysMIC tutors who are on hand to help you with questions and give extra guidance for completing assignments. To reduce the burden on the tutors we ask where possible you request help through the forums. This allows any useful information to be shared by everyone else on the course. Importantly other participants might be able to help out with answers and we will be actively encouraging high-quality participation of this sort as “teaching” will greatly improve your learning.

I can't access the website/ the website seems broken. What do I do?

We aim to run a stable site, but in the early days of the course it is entirely possible we have some teething issues. If you are having trouble accessing or using the website please email At the start of the course we will provide you with .pdf versions of the notes and assignments which you can use offline.

What prior knowledge do I need to participate in the course?

The course is designed such that it is accessible to people with only GCSE mathematics. However A-level mathematics would be beneficial.

Can I access materials at the end of the course?

Yes. Your access will last for the entire duration of the SysMIC project so that you can return and access the textbook as and when it is needed throughout your career.

Additional Questions

How do I work through the materials?

The course has two parts that are to be taken simultaneously:

1) Biological examples (covered in the "Biological examples" section of the textbook)

which is assessed through the assignments.

2) Mathematical background (covered in the "Mathematical background" section of the

text book) which is assessed through the quizzes. See the video here

Are the Quizzes Mandatory?

This course is designed for self-learning and is not assessed like an undergraduate course. The very minimum engagement is to do all the assignments but to get the most out of the course you should attempt the quizzes. We will monitor all the parts that you have engaged with and can provide information to your local DTP or to the BBSRC about what you attempted.

Do the quizzes need to be completed along with the assignment by the due date?

In order to see how the maths relates to the biological examples and to maximise the effectiveness of the tutor support (who can help with the maths if you are stuck) you should attempt the quizzes in parallel to the assignments and by the assignment due date.

How are the assignments assessed?

The assignments are for your learning development and to give you practical skills in computer modelling. You won't be graded on them but we will release model answers to them. If you are a DTP student then your local administration may request information on which activities you have completed and request your assignments for performance evaluation. We will also offer a peer review option so that you can get comments on your work.

I need to hand my assignment in late, what should I do?

If you are not going to hand the assignment in on time, don't worry, just hand it in as soon as you can.