Immune System Computation and the Immunological Homunculus
Students for the Master of Science degree at the Weizmann Institute of Science are obliged to spend the first year of the two-year program doing three-month rotations through three different laboratories in any of the various faculties at the Institute. In 1998, Na’aman Kam rotated through my laboratory in the Department of Immunology where he did molecular modeling of an antibody (1). His next rotation, he told me, would be with David Harel in the Department of Computer Science and Applied Mathematics. When you get there, said I, tell David Harel about the immune system and ask him two questions:
Is the immune system a computer?
If a computer scientist would set out to build a computer capable of doing what the immune system does, what kind of computer would it have to be?
Connecting Computer and Biological Sciences
The questions (or to be more accurate, the student who transmitted them) led to a continuing collaboration with David Harel catalyzed by joint Master’s, Doctoral and Post-doctoral students who have worked to combine computer science and biological systems: After Na’aman Kam came Sol Efroni (2-4), Naamah Swerdlin (5), Yaki Setty, Hila Amir-Kroll, and Avital Sadot. Students can be a boon to inter-disciplinary research because, being unencumbered by expertise, they fearlessly lead (or carry) their supervisors into unfamiliar territories.
KeywordsImmune System Immune Cell Central Processing Unit Antigen Receptor Immune System Information
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